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Kahne patiently works past setback
A miscue such as Kasey Kahne had in the pits could have been disastrous for some teams, but not for his Hendrick Motorsports team.
Kahne dealt with a loose right front wheel on Lap 53 in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, five circuits after pit stops during the first caution.
“I'm coming," Kahne radioed to his team, at the time not knowing whether it was an engine issue or a problem with tires causing him trouble.
Crew chief Kenny Francis later relayed the information that the problem for Kahne indeed had been a loose wheel. Although Kahne restarted 35th, one lap down, after pitting, by the restart on Lap 154 he had moved up to 21st. In 15 laps, Kahne was in the top 15 and kept digging.
He pitted for gas for the last time on Lap 211 with 14 of the other lead-lap cars and restarted 12th for the final 47-lap shootout. While some drivers were conserving fuel, Kahne had the green light and began picking off opponents. He was sixth with 30 laps remaining and then passed Martin Truex Jr. in a hard battle for fifth place on Lap 255. Four laps later he overtook teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. for fourth place, then he knocked off Carl Edwards for third on Lap 260.
With Denny Hamlin in fuel-conservation mode, Kahne powered after the No. 11 Toyota and made the pass for second on Lap 263. But he had nothing for race-winner Brad Keselowski, who had a 4.333-second advantage at the end.
Kahne says his car was “really good” throughout the whole race. That wasn’t the case throughout the weekend.
“Yesterday in practice I was worried, and Kenny Francis and (lead engineer) Keith Rodden made some really good adjustments,” Kahne said. “We felt like our teammates were pretty good. So we looked at some of the things they were doing. And it's nice to have as good of teammates as we had. So we were able to put a nice package in the car and it worked really well.
“We got a lap behind there with the loose right front, and then we had another slow stop later. The pit crew is really good at times and they're solid. We've got to keep working on it and got to be a little stronger throughout. But my car was fast. And I think the longer the run went, the better we seemed to get. The better I could move around on the racetrack anyways.”
Despite Kahne’s fourth top-five finish of the season, he remains 14th in the points standings and second in the wild-card ranks. After seven consecutive top-10 finishes to start the year, Kahne suffered two accidents three of the races prior to Kentucky.
For the Hendrick Motorsports newcomer, qualifying for the postseason is still a concern.
“Top fives (are) good, probably not going to get us in the Chase (for the Sprint Cup),” said Kahne, whose only win came at Charlotte in May. “We need to win a race or two more to make the Chase.”
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