Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After winning Sunday's race at New
Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kasey Kahne put himself in pretty good shape to
qualify for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Kahne did not get off to a fine start in his first season as driver of the No.
5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. After the April 1 race at Martinsville,
his chances of making the Chase looked rather dismal, as he sat 31st in the
point standings. But his season has dramatically turned around since then.
Kahne rolled off seven straight top-10 finishes, including a win in the May 27
event at Charlotte.
Heading into the New Hampshire, Kahne ranked 16th in points and held the
fourth spot in the Chase wild card rankings. His two wins so far this year
have now put him in the first wild card spot.
"I feel good about where we're at now," Kahne said. "We just have to stay
consistent, stay after it, keep putting ourself in position and hopefully win
a couple more races."
Kahne also jumped to 12th in the point standings but trails 10th-place Brad
Keselowski by a distant 66 points. Carl Edwards is 46 markers behind
Keselowski in 11th. Edwards, though, has yet to win this year.
With seven races remaining before the Chase begins on Sept. 16 at Chicagoland,
Keselowski and defending series champion Tony Stewart have the most victories
with three apiece, while Kahne, his teammate, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin
have a pair of wins each. Kahne has more wins than any other driver presently
ranked outside the top-10 in points.
"I think three (wins) would put you in a real good spot," Kahne said. "Two
helps, but three would put you in a real good spot. We're going to stay after
it. We have some really good tracks coming up."
Kyle Busch held the first wild card spot by virtue of his win in April at
Richmond and his 12th ranking in points, but after finishing 16th at New
Hampshire, Busch dropped to the second and last wild card position. He also
fell to 13th in points.
Busch started on the pole and led the first 66 laps before he was penalized
for speeding onto pit road and then had an issue with the replacement of his
right-front tire during the stop. He had another pit mishap late in the race
when he overshot his stall.
"I just don't know what to say anymore; we just can't get some things to fall
our way," Busch said. "We have good race cars every week, and our (car) was
good again this week. Things just haven't been falling our way."
Kahne made his first appearance in the Chase in 2006, finishing eighth in
points and winning a series-season-high six races. He drove for Ray Evernham's
team at the time. Kahne earned his second trip into NASCAR's playoffs while
driving for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2009. He finished 10th in points and
won two races that season.
In April 2010, Kahne signed a contract with Hendrick to replace Mark Martin in
the No. 5 car for 2012 and beyond. After his release from Petty's team with a
handful of races remaining in the '10 season, Kahne moved over to Red Bull
Racing, where he spent all of last season until his switch to Hendrick. He
ended last year on a high note by winning the penultimate race at Phoenix.
Kenny Francis has served as Kahne's crew chief since the start of the 2006
season and has moved with him from Evernham to Petty to Red Bull before
arriving at Hendrick.
Kahne and Francis endured one issue after another in the early going of this
season, but the two are now on a roll, as they hope to make their third
appearance in the Chase and quite possibly win the championship.
"We took a lot of our ideas to Hendrick Motorsports," Francis said. "We
finished the year off really strong last year. When we came over (to
Hendrick), we had a lot of fresh ideas that we had incorporated into the cars.
That took a little bit of doing, getting that stuff rolling, as it always
"We had some speed. We just had a few issues. We crashed when we shouldn't
have crashed. We had some engines break. We had a few bad pit calls that got
us messed up, poor position, then got in a wreck. Things like that happen."
New Hampshire is the second scheduled race in the Chase (Sept. 23).
"We'll be able to look at (New Hampshire) and really have a good game plan
going into the Chase race here," Kahne said. "We know some of the other cars
that will run really good here when we come back. We need to be a little
better. I got the right guy (Francis) to work on that."
The series takes next weekend off -- the final time this season -- before its
next race on July 29 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Sports Network