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Kahne, Stewart Use Mulligans at Dover
Typically the Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers expect to take a mulligan, plan on having one "off day" during the grueling, pressure-packed 10-week playoff.
If a 15th- or 20th-place finish Sunday at Dover International Speedway counts as a mulligan, then Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart will take it. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse for both.
It cost each driver one place in the standings. Stewart, the reigning champion who finished 20th, is now fifth, 32 points behind race winner and new championship leader Brad Keselowski.
Kahne, who finished 15th, dropped to sixth place, also 32 points behind Keselowski. Kahne was particularly frustrated because he was on pace for his third consecutive top-five finish.
"It's discouraging because I know we could have run second, and I think we could have beaten the 2 [of Keselowski]," Kahne said.
At times, his No. 5 Chevrolet was the fastest car on track. But Kahne had to pit with a right-front tire problem with 37 laps remaining and then again when a crewman didn't get all the lug nuts on the replacement.
"We don't know what it was yet, the car just started shaking really bad,' Kahne said. "I got nervous because it was getting worse and worse. Right before it did that we were fast, we finally got our laps back that we lost early and we were really coming on.
"It was upsetting. We had been behind all day, so we fought hard and got back to fifth. I felt really good about where I was, but things happen."
In Stewart's case, his No. 14 Chevrolet never got into contention. He finished three laps down, never able to make up for a mid-pack qualifying effort.
"We just got caught behind the eight ball there,' Stewart said. "We got a lap down, and the next time we pitted and came back out, the No. 36 car [of J.J. Yeley] crashes. It was just a domino effect. As soon as we'd pit, the caution would come out again.
"So, I don't know what we've got to do to change our luck, but that's just the story of the day for us."
Stewart's crew chief, Steve Addington, didn't appear to be fazed by the day's outcome. As the team was loading Stewart's car into the transporter after the race, Addington already was looking ahead to the next race.
"We had a good car, just qualified back there and lost that first lap," Addington said. "Seemed like every time we pitted, a caution came out and put us further and further behind.
"I'm always [optimistic] though. We knew this place would be an obstacle for us, and we made the best out of it, so we'll go to Talladega next week and try to win it.'
It's certainly been a different postseason for Stewart, who won five of the 10 Chase races en route to his third title last season. He had finishes of sixth and seventh in the two races prior to Dover and was fourth the race before that.
"Until they tell us we're not, we're in it," Stewart said.