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How the race was won

Kahne
Kahne After struggling with restarts all day long, Kasey Kahne finally had a strong one when it mattered most, pulling away from Tony Stewart after a late caution and riding to his second win of the season.

Story of the race

The youngsters. Though only two rookies (Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.) ultimately finished in the top 10, Reed Sorenson (13th) and Clint Bowyer (19th) also were impressive for much of the day.

Stewart. He kept his streak of leading every race this season going. Remarkable.

And of course, Kahne, Ray Evernham and Dodge power.

Give 'em credit

Kahne aside, Stewart and Matt Kenseth both put on a heck of a show. Each had to drive from the back of the pack to finish in the top three. These teams pretty much have it all figured out at this point.

Kurt Busch, the Saturday version. Scored a win in his first career start in the series with the same name, did snow angels in Texas, kissed his car with helmet on. A little creepy, but fun.

And how about Greg Biffle's girlfriend Nicole Lunders stepping up and calling out Kurt Busch's fiancée Eva Bryan after Busch wrecked Biffle in the Cup race? Great stuff.

Scott Riggs and Bobby Labonte. Big efforts. Nice showings from RCR teammates Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick (and Bowyer), also, and a nice comeback by Jimmie Johnson.

Another race, another top-10 for Mark Martin. Has he ever been better?

What were they thinking?

Kurt Busch, the Sunday version. Did Biffle slow when he pulled in front of Busch? Maybe. Could/should Busch have lifted? Probably. It amazed me that after getting punched in the face by Jimmy Spencer while still strapped defenseless into his seat that Busch was widely portrayed as the bad guy. And maybe all the incidents this year are just circumstantial, but the case Spencer brought against Busch a few years back is collecting more and more evidence.

Carl Edwards. After his rough start, it's easy to understand why he wanted a win so badly. Stewart said Edwards was driving over his head. That's overstating it, but Edwards was pushing it a bit much, especially considering how much he needed a good result. But all this Edwards knows, and to his credit he always is the first to admit a mistake. He just needs to learn a little more from them, lest fans forget what the backflip looks like.

Better luck next time

Gordon
Gordon

Oh, Robby Gordon. It seemed he finally was able to dodge bad luck – both the kind he can't control and that of his own doing – and pick up a top-10 finish, but then the caution flew right after his final pit stop, relegating him to a 20th-place finish, one lap down. Just brutal. Sure, there are fans out there who don't particularly like Gordon, but one would have to be pretty cold not to feel even slightly bad for the guy after what he's gone through this season.

Sorenson and Bowyer. Late problems and/or mistakes cost them better finishes. Fellow rookie J.J. Yeley, who qualified second for the race, also looked terrific for a while before finding the wall.

Edwards and Biffle. Each race they probably ask themselves if it can get any worse. And then it does.

Jeff Gordon. It seemed his team had come far enough so that a "bad" finish at a cookie-cutter track was still a top-15. But Gordon's tire had other ideas.

Elliott Sadler might have had a top-10, but his engine had other plans.

By the way ...

The Champ Car season began at Long Beach on Sunday. Those guys are still worth watching. So is the IRL. And so is, obviously, NASCAR. And people, there's absolutely nothing wrong with liking all three series, not to mention F1, sports cars, dragsters, sprints and midgets, bikes, powerboats, slot cars, school buses on a figure-8 (yes, that exists) – it's all racing, it's all good.

Did anyone else notice the green flag stops?! First in the Busch race, and then there was a full cycle in Sunday's Cup race. Ah, how we've missed thee. Still, the unofficial tally for full green flag cycles for the Cup season stands at just two.

Nothing against the Cup and Busch shows, but anyone else think Friday's IROC show was, by a wide margin, the best race of the weekend? It would have been so even without the cherry-on-top fence climb – and without another Steve Kinser flip. People complain that common templates and the Car of Tomorrow will make Cup racing just like IROC. On Friday, it was hard to see why that would be undesirable.

How funny would it be if Brett Bodine brake-checked Stewart while the No. 20 was banging the pace car around during caution laps?

Grading the race

Just 18 cars finished on the lead lap. That's usually a sign of long green flag runs, and that's not necessarily what fans enjoy at 1½-mile tracks. But the best cars were able to start at or get to the front (seven different drivers led double-digit laps), while others were able to recover from adversity. And while Kahne drove away from the field on that last restart, there were several cars with a shot to win on that final restart. The pit cycles also added some drama on who might make it if it stayed green, and who might only take two tires. Cookie cutters are hit and miss, and this one, despite dragging on at times (sometimes 500 miles is too many), was generally a hit.
Grade: B

From the source

Ryan Newman: "I'm pretty sure Sterling Marlin's hairpiece just got down in his eyes and he couldn't see what was going on."

Kasey Kahne: "I might have crashed it [last season]. Who knows? [Sunday] I was able to stay calm enough."