Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne last in Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup headed to Kansas Speedway
To put it mildly, the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup hasn’t gone quite to Kasey Kahne’s liking. To put it bluntly, this season's playoff segment has been a major disappointment for the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet.
With three races down and seven to go, Kahne is last among the 13 Chase drivers and carrying a 78-point deficit to championship leader Matt Kenseth.
While Kahne has not been mathematically eliminated from title contention yet, the harsh reality of the situation is that he will not win his first Sprint Cup Series championship this season. Kahne, having been around long enough to recognize the points hole he’s in, is not harboring any grand illusions of how high he can climb in the standings over the remaining events.
“I think once you realize your chances at a Sprint Cup are over with, it changes the feeling a little bit,” Kahne said on a national teleconference. “It will keep getting better. We have a strong team. We’ve been one of the best cars at times throughout the whole season. Hopefully, we can hit on it again these last seven races and at least finish strong and get back in the top 10. I think at this point in time that would be a successful year for where we’re at right now.”
Despite entering the Chase as a wild card, Kahne was considered a dark-horse championship contender by some pundits. The Enumclaw, Wash. native won twice during the regular season, and is one of the sport’s best intermediate-track drivers – a bonus, to be certain, considering that five of the 10 Chase tracks are mile-and-a-halves.
But after starting the Chase with a 12th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway, any hopes of a title charge went away the next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where the second-year Hendrick Motorsports driver crashed late and finished 37th.
The result sent Kahne tumbling from 10th to last among the 13 Chase drivers, and an unimpressive 13th-place finish last Sunday at Dover did nothing to help his cause.
“You just want to run better,” Kahne said. “It’s been a tough season all year, really. As soon as you start feeling good, something happens.”
Kahne blames no one but himself for the New Hampshire wreck and his slow start to the Chase.
“The way I look at it is, you know, I’m the one that made the mistake,” said Kahne, who recorded a career-best points finish of fourth last season. “I feel bad for the guys on that front.
“We work together all season long. Things happen, whether it’s to the car, driver error, a pit-stop error. I mean, all those things happen. As long as you’re always together as a team during any of those things, you just recover and you move on.
“When it’s not your season, it’s not your season. But I definitely take full responsibility and felt bad after screwing up and spinning there, taking us out of the Chase.”
The good news is that Kansas Speedway, site of Sunday’s Price Chopper 400, is a good track for Kahne. In his last four starts at the 1.5-mile facility, Kahne has four top-10 finishes including a pair of runner-up results.
Then, Charlotte Motor Speedway – the track on tap after Kansas – is arguably Kahne’s best on the entire Sprint Cup Series tour. Kahne owns four points-paying wins in 19 starts at CMS, plus a victory in the Sprint All-Star Race.
If nothing else, Kahne can find at least a little solace in knowing the two upcoming venues have historically treated him well.
“We’re just trying to get back on track, finishing up the season strong,” Kahne said. “I feel like the leaders in the points, they’re kind of in their own race. We’ll just do what we can to finish off our year, and hopefully we can get a win or two at some of our best racetracks.”