Kahne wins Darlington Trucks raceStarting Grid | Results | Recap
(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer
DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) Kasey Kahne earned himself a NASCAR victory and to him, that's more important than a few days off.
The Sprint Cup star led the final 51 laps, held off defending series champion Todd Bodine and brought more success to Kyle Busch Motorsports in winning the Camping World Trucks event at Darlington Raceway on Saturday night.
Kahne could've easily been soaking up some sun, like his Cancun-bound truck owner, during the Sprint Cup off week. Instead, Kahne took part in his favorite form of relaxation - winning races.
"I'll buy (Kyle) a vacation anytime to drive this thing again," Kahne said.
The 30-year-old Kahne is one of Sprint Cup's most popular drivers, as much for his easy-going nature and good looks as for his 11 series wins.
But Kahne hasn't won on NASCAR's biggest stage in nearly two years and relished taking the Too Tough To Tame 200 checkered flag.
"I enjoy winning and I don't win near enough," Kahne said. "So to come here and win this weekend feels great. There's no way it can't benefit ... the next month or so, give me some momentum.'
"It's exciting. I don't care what it is."
Ron Hornaday Jr. finished second, and Bodine was third. Series points leader Matt Crafton took fourth and James Buescher finished fifth.
Timothy Peters was sixth followed by former Sprint Cup regular Elliott Sadler. Pole-winner Cole Whitt was next with Johnny Sauter and David Starr rounding out the top 10.
Kahne, who led 95 laps, has three victories and a second in four career Trucks starts.
Kahne was the clear headliner at Darlington and came loaded with one of the series' most dominant machines. Busch won eight times last season, including three of the last four events.
Busch has kept it up this year, winning at Phoenix two weeks ago.
This time, though, Busch chose to take a Mexican vacation with wife Samantha - the couple were watching the race in TV but in Spanish - leaving the seat open for fellow Sprint Cup racer Kahne.
Crew chief Eric Phillips was happy for Kahne. Phillips also swore that Busch is a delightful owner who's never said a cross word to him during the heat of racing. Then again, what's there to complain about with KBM's success rate?
"Guys that drives these Cup cars every week, they expect you to show up at the racetrack and be good when you unload, be fast and be prepared," Phillips said. "And as long as you are, they're easy to work with."
Kahne won his first-ever Trucks start at Darlington in 2004 and just about picked up where he left off then.
He was quickest in the first of two practice sessions, was second in qualifying and, by running mostly up front, stayed free of the wreckage that always seem to take place at the "Lady in Black."
The race saw a record-tying 10 caution periods, the most serious coming on lap 98 when 18-year-old Johanna Long slammed into Ricky Carmichael and then hit the inside retaining wall.
Both Carmichael and Long, the series' youngest competitor, left the infield care center in good condition.
Kahne took the lead for good on lap 96, then stood strong through three restarts to stay in front.
The last one came with three laps remaining and Darlington veterans Bodine and Hornaday breathing hard down his tailgate.
But Kahne calmly powered ahead when the green flag dropped and no one could catch him.
Bodine thought he might have something for Kahne down the stretch, but left praising the nearly full front stretch grandstand on a picture-perfect, 70-degree day. The race even included an on track visit from NFL star Randy Moss, co-owner of Randy Moss Motorsports, which fielded trucks for Travis Kvapil and Tayler Malsam.
"I'm so happy for Darlington Raceway, look at all the fans we got," Bodine said.
Kahne, Busch and the rest of the Sprint Cup competitors resume their schedule next week at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Updated March 12, 2011