Originally created 09/10/04

Rookie drives to first pole



RICHMOND, Va. - Impressive rookie Kasey Kahne started what he hopes will be an uplifting weekend Thursday night, winning his first pole of the season in 22 tries in NASCAR's Busch Series.

Kahne, 24, a five-time runner-up in the Nextel Cup series this season, turned a lap at 127.678 mph on the three-quarter-mile Richmond International Raceway, edging Kyle Busch for the top position.

Kahne is hoping it's only the start at Richmond, where tonight's Emerson 250 is just a warmup for Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400.

Kahne will start that Nextel Cup race ninth in the points, trying to stay in the top 10 and keep his spot in the sport's 10-race playoff.

"Getting the pole is definitely a big deal to me," he said. "If it will help our Cup race on Saturday - it wouldn't hurt it. I think it will help a little bit with what the track does. I'll know that."

Busch, meantime, has his own points goal - closing a 95-point deficit to Busch Series leader Martin Truex Jr. in the series' last nine races.

Busch got off to a good start with a lap at 127.179 mph.

"We didn't quite get it the way we needed to have a pole-winning run," Busch said. "That's all right. Kasey Kahne, he ran an awesome lap. I didn't think we were going to be able to beat him anyway."

Truex will start seventh, only three rows behind.

"It's nice to out-qualify your main competition, but I just kind of go about it every week the same way," Busch said. "We've got to do our job."

IROC: In Richmond, Va., Matt Kenseth turned the all-star International Race of Champions series into a one-star event Thursday night.

Taking the lead on the sixth of 90 laps, Kenseth raced comfortably in front the rest of the way, making a decisive display of prowess on the final restart with 30 laps to go and leaving the field in the distance.

"If you can get up front ... and keep it on the bottom in front of the guys, it's very difficult for them to pass you," Kenseth said of the three-quarter-mile, D-shaped oval at Richmond International Raceway.

"My car drove the same the whole race and it was a lot of fun."

It was the first victory for Kenseth in the series that pits drivers from stock car and open-wheel series in identically prepared cars, and he made it look as if he was racing a premium stock car against go-karts.

Kenseth won by 2.759 seconds, with Ryan Newman second, followed by Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, an all-NASCAR top-five.

All the drama came in the fight for second.

"It was a great battle, just with us three," Busch said.

Kasey Kahne: Driver turned in a lap of 127.678 mph to win the pole position for tonight's Busch race at Richmond International Raceway.