Kahne ends 81-race winless streak

11/14/2011 12:00 AM

11/14/2011 12:05 AM

AVONDALE, Ariz. —Kasey Kahne snapped an 81-race winless streak Sunday by holding off championship contenders Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart at Phoenix International Raceway.

Stewart dominated the race, leading 160 of the 312 laps, but had to pit for gas with 18 laps remaining. He then had to work his way back to the front, and used a late pass of Jeff Burton to finish third, right behind Edwards.

The points margin didn't change, and Edwards goes into next weekend's season finale leading Stewart by three points. Edwards is going for his first Sprint Cup championship, while Stewart is a two-time champion.

"We're going to make him sweat it out," Stewart said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a dead heat going in there. I'm pumped. I wish I was going to Homestead tomorrow."

So did Edwards, a two-time Homestead winner.

"This is going to be a battle. I truly believe it's going to be a good race," Edwards said. "That place is magical for us. I really enjoy going there.

"I hope it comes down to the fastest guy winning the race."

It's the closest title race since NASCAR implemented the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in 2004.

Five-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson finished 14th and was officially eliminated from title contention.

"It's been one hell of a run," he posted on Twitter shortly after the race.

Kahne, meanwhile, won for the first time since Atlanta in 2009, and it comes in his next-to-last race with Red Bull Racing. He's moving to Hendrick Motorsports next season, and Red Bull is pulling out of NASCAR.

Burton finished fourth and was followed by Ryan Newman.

AJ Allmendinger was sixth, and David Reutimann, told two weeks ago he was losing his job at Michael Waltrip Racing, was seventh.

Marcos Ambrose finished eighth and was followed by Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.

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