By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
SONOMA, Calif. -- 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 500.
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.
Stewart 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 10.
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.
It was Kahne's first win since Pocono last June.