LONG POND, Pennsylvania. – If past performance is any indicator, Kasey Kahne could be in for the Sprint Cup showing he very much needs at Pocono Raceway.
Midway through the 26 races that will set the field for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kahne is a driver on the outside looking in. Still looking for his first victory, Kahne sits 18th in points.
But Kahne is the most recent Cup driver to win at Pocono. He captured the GoBowling.com 400 last Aug. 4, leading a race-high 66 laps on the way to his second career win on the 2.5 mile track.
Kahne also won the 2008 Pocono 500 and finished second in the Pennsylvania 400 in 2012, helping pave the way to his best-ever finish in the Chase standings (fourth).
“Last time we were here we won, so I feel good about racing at Pocono,” Kahne said Friday. “This is a track where I’ve run well in the past and with Hendrick race cars and engines it makes it a lot easier.”
Finishing a disappointing 19th last week at Dover International Speedway, Kahne’s results belied the raciness his No. 5 Chevrolet displayed in the early going. On Lap 222 of 400, Kahne was running in the top five and appeared to be a driver on the move, set to challenge his teammate and eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson.
But lost speed after a four-tire stop, some miscommunication in the pits and a slip-up in Turn 2 contributed to a slow fade.
“It’s been a bit frustrating at times,” Kahne admits. “I think there has been a touch of bad luck and we just haven’t put together full races.
“This last Monday was probably the worst Monday I’ve had of the season after a bad result. We went from 17th up to fifth and then just couldn’t hit on it from there. But we had a really fast car. We had a great test in New Hampshire Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m excited to be here this weekend and trying to get some things rolling.”
Johnson’s team works side-by-side with Kahne’s at the Hendrick Motorsports shop and six-time Cup champion believes that Kahne should have more to show than one top five (a third at Kansas) and four top 10s this season.
“I know their cars are fast, so it’s kind of frustration/disappointment that they haven’t been able to capitalize,” Johnson says. “He has had a lot of solid runs going and, whack, things happen. We want all four (Hendrick) cars in the Chase and we need to get Kasey a win.”
Winless himself going into the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson said his team went so far as to replicate Kahne’s setup in many ways.
“I give them credit for helping us get going at Charlotte and Dover,” Johnson said. “We decided to start looking at the No. 5 setup and morphing our car in that direction for the 600. It turned out great for us. I know that after debriefing with him, he had an awesome car in Charlotte. We had a similar setup going to Dover. I know he had another great car in Dover and circumstances kept him from having the day he wanted.
“We are all working very hard together and very close with Kasey,” said Johnson, who even considered swapping cars with Kahne during this week’s test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “We’re doing everything we can to really elevate Hendrick and help those guys get their win.”
Kahne ran mid-pack during Friday’s first Sprint Cup practice at 177.5 mph, but was the slowest of the four Hendrick cars. Brian Vickers, another driver seeking that victory that could punch his ticket to the Chase, was fastest in his Toyota with a track record 180.854.
“I think as far as speed goes and getting the car right, we’ll be good on Sunday at points,” Kahne said. “We just need to put the whole 400 miles together. If we do that, we’ll have a shot to win.”
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