Rusty Nails It: Pole, pits keys to Kahne's victory
Both of Kasey Kahne's wins this season have come from the pole, but, as Rusty Wallace writes, it takes more than that to win.
Texas Motor Speedway is a fast track that takes a lot of horsepower, and some teams have more than others.
Kasey Kahne had a real fast car Sunday and has had a lot of success on speedways. What I've seen from him is that he runs a real high line and builds momentum on the top side of the racetrack when a lot of drivers are working to try to handle their car down low.
Kahne's a "rim rider" -- driving on the top rim of the track -- and always seems to have his car working well up there. He's never on the bottom of the track, and I'm not sure if that comes from his sprint car days or open-wheel days, but that is something in particular I have noticed.
When Kahne gets his car working on the top of the track, it has more momentum up off the corner. He keeps the car wound up instead of binding it up on the bottom of the track. Kahne goes to that high line, keeps his car really wound up, gets better grip on the track and makes the motor appear that it has more horsepower than it really does. On Sunday, he had a great handling car and could have run all over that track.
Kahne is a fairly new driver -- this is his third year in the Nextel Cup Series -- and it seems as if these younger drivers always have more success on the bigger racetracks. The tracks have more room, and it gives the drivers a little more time to think and work around the track. On a short track, you really have to be on it right off the bat.
Kahne had a fast car, and that was the reason he was able to get on the pole at Texas. On Sunday, his pit crew maintained that throughout the day, giving him great pit stops that enabled him to stay up front. He started slipping back, complaining that he was real loose. They made a couple of little adjustments, and that car took off. Both of Kahne's wins this season have come from the pole, which is just a coincidence. What's not coincidental is that in both wins he had great help from his pit crew.
As for the accident with Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch, what happened -- in most people's eyes -- was very strange. Biffle was up front with a fast car, and Busch was a lap down because of a jack problem in the pits. I don't know how they got together right dead in the middle of the back straightaway like they did.
I don't like putting a lot of blame on drivers, but if I was in the lead lap with a fast car like Biffle had and I got hit by a car that's a lap down, I've got a problem with that, especially since the car that's a lap down was right behind me. Busch made some comments saying that it was Biffle's fault because Biffle was having problems getting around the 21 car (Ken Schrader). Either way, that wreck will go down as one of the most bizarre moments of the 2006 season.
Tony Stewart was rock solid and continues to lay those good numbers down with three top-five finishes in his last four starts. Jimmie Johnson continues to keep running fairly strong, and I've seen a resurgence in Jeff Gordon.
But the one driver who continues to surprise me week after week is rookie Denny Hamlin. He's having a great season, which started with a win at the Bud Shootout. He's constantly running up front, leading laps, and he finished fourth Sunday. The track at Texas is a tough one to drive and takes real talent to handle it. Hamlin would have to be my leader for rookie of the year because he looks so strong.
Drivers have the weekend off for Easter, although a handful will run in the Busch Series race in Nashville, Tenn. Other drivers will take time off and head for the Caribbean just to get away. They all love to do that. Drivers who are struggling, a lot of times, will use this weekend to catch up -- go to Kentucky and do some testing -- trying to figure out what they are doing wrong.
Former Cup champion Rusty Wallace will provide coverage for ESPN and ABC during this year's IndyCar Series and selected Nextel Cup races.
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