SONOMA, Calif. (AP) – Kasey Kahne gave struggling Richard
Petty Motorsports a much-needed boost Sunday, holding off Tony Stewart at
Infineon Raceway to snap a 37-race winless streak.

Kahne was met in
Victory Lane by Richard Petty, who made his first trip as a car owner in more
than a decade. A Petty-owned car had not won a race since John Andretti’s
victory at Martinsville in April, 1999.

“I feel just as good as he does,”
said The King, clad in his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses. “It’s great,
man. It’s great.”

Petty’s race team teetered on the verge of collapse at
the end of last season and needed a January merger with Gillett-Evernham
Motorsports to stay in business. The team was rebranded as Richard Petty
Motorsports and kicked off the season with a strong showing at the Daytona

But it’s been a rough ride, since. Team manufacturer Chrysler is in
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and funding to RPM has slowed to a crawl as
Dodge restructures. The team laid off nine employees earlier this month and made
companywide salary cuts, and it’s been plagued by whispers of financial
instability the last several weeks.

Just Saturday, majority team owner
George Gillett agreed to sell the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens in a deal that should
help him fight any solvency issues.


It’s made for a frustrating season
for Kahne, the star of the four-driver team, who at times this year has been
vocal about RPM’s progress. His criticism prompted team officials to push out a
new Dodge engine, and the improved motor had given Kahne hope that there’s
reason for optimism.

Now he has his first victory on a road course – a
remedy for any disgruntled driver.

“I learned how to drive on dirt,”
Kahne said. “So to come out and win on a road course … it feels great. I can’t
believe it.”

The victory moved Kahne to 13th in the standings, one spot
shy of qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

finished second and was followed by Marcos Ambrose, who blew a motor in
Saturday’s practice that forced him to start at the back of the field and
forfeit his third-place qualifying position.

Jimmie Johnson was fourth and was followed by Denny Hamlin
and Juan Pablo Montoya, who moved up two spots in the standings to take the 12th
Chase position.


AJ Allmendinger, Kahne’s teammate at RPM, was seventh and
Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon and RPM driver Elliott Sadler rounded out the top

Kahne led the final 38 laps but had to stave off a final charge from
Stewart on an overtime finish.

Scott Speed’s spin with two laps to go set
up one final restart, and under a NASCAR rule started three races ago, Kahne and
Stewart were side-by-side on the restart. Kahne zipped to the front from the
outside, then pulled down in front of Stewart to firmly take control.

was Kahne’s first win since Pocono last June.

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