When practice concluded Friday at Richmond International Raceway, it appeared that Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson would be likely contenders for the Toyota Owners 400 pole, and possibly, the race win.
Instead, both drivers found themselves having to rally from their poor qualifying efforts.
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 36th on Friday, but methodically climbed through the field. Johnson didn’t score his third win of the season, but his third-place finish felt like a moral victory in itself.
“We had a great race car and I really felt like that was the case on Friday, except for our qualifying lap,” said Johnson. “I don’t know what happened on Friday and in general, I’m not the best qualifier. We worked hard to make it last in the long run and with all the long runs that we had, I was able to get through the field and get this Lowe’s Pro Service Chevy up front. Those last few restarts I was able to hang on and duke it out with those guys and get a nice top three finish.”
Starting deeper in the field, Kahne showed speed early with an impressive climb from his 40th starting spot to crack the top-10 by Lap 100. From there, Kahne’s progression was slower, and he admitted his Hendrick Motorsports team fought through inconsistencies with the handling.
“It was pretty inconsistent; there were good runs and bad runs,” Kahne said. “For whatever reason, that last run was really good. I was happy with the way the day ended up.”
Salvaging a sixth-place run and his fourth top-10 finish of the year, Kahne feels good about the progression of his No. 5 team. After nine races, the Enumclaw, Washington native occupies sixth in the championship standings.
“The team did a good job,” Kahne said. “The pit stops were consistent and strong all day. I would say our best race of the year there, at least it felt like one of our better ones. I felt good about that and we just have to keep working. We are getting closer at times. I’m glad we finished strong today because the second-to-last run was a really bad run.”