Hendrick glass half-empty: Kahne comes up short at Indy

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, led the most laps Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but ended up fading to sixth by the finish.

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Kenny Francis, the crew chief for Kasey Kahne, brushed off a reporter’s request for comment after watching his driver have one slip away Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Somehow, the driver himself managed to be in a little bit better mood.

Kahne, who led a race-high 70 laps laps and wheeled one of the day’s two dominant cars, faded to finish sixth after losing the lead to teammate and race winner Jeff Gordon on the final restart with 17 laps to go.

Kahne tumbled from first to fifth in one lap and then lost fifth to Joey Logano when the No. 5 Chevrolet’s fuel tank ran dry coming to the checkered flag.

Kahne made his final pit stop with 33 laps to go, a lap earlier than Gordon, and feared not reaching the finish — even if he managed to stay ahead of the No. 24 Chevrolet on the final restart.

As it turned out, he did neither, but the driver who remains winless in 2014 managed to find some positives after delivering one of his best performances of the season.

"We had a really good car, and I was happy with the speed of the car," Kahne said. "Just didn’t get the win, but we were close. The team had a really great effort and did a nice job. I was really happy with that."

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Kahne, who had been in fuel conservation mode before giving up the lead, regretted not choosing the top lane on the final restart – even if it wouldn’t have ultimately mattered in the end.

"Jeff just beat me," Kahne said. "We got into Turn 1, he held me down and he was able to momentum off of Turn 1, which he did a better job. I should have chosen the outside, looking back, but I thought there was more grip on the inside down the frontstretch. Then he controlled the start. I just gave it up at that point. Either way that was the best we were going to finish. That was alright, though." 

Gordon had been aggressively hounding Kahne’s back bumper for several laps before the caution waved on Lap 140 for Ryan Truex’s stalled car, setting up the final restart which followed a final round of pit stops in which the top seven cars elected not to participate.

Gordon, who celebrated a Sprint Cup-record fifth Brickyard victory, made no apologies about racing his teammate aggressively both before and on the last restart.

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"I’m here to win the race, you know," Gordon said. "We were in a better fuel position. I understood what he was doing. I would have done the same thing. He probably would have done the same thing to me in that position. Guys are out there shutting the engine off to save fuel. If they’re real close, they’re not maintaining the pace-car speed, you got to push them — that’s what I did.

"I treated him like a competitor at that point. He might not have liked it. But I have so much respect for Kasey; I love him, that team. We’re out of the same shop. But when it comes down to the end of a race, we’re here to win."

And win Gordon did, while Kahne remains the only one among the four Hendrick drivers bereft of a victory in the season’s first 20 races. Without a trip to Victory Lane in the next six races, Kahne is likely to miss the Chase for the first time in three seasons since joining the Hendrick organization.

"Yeah, no kidding," Kahne said, when reminded how a win at Indy would have all but guaranteed him a Chase berth.

"I know that. We have five more good tracks for us and six more races, so hopefully we can get one."

Kasey Kahne gets beaten by Jeff Gordon on the final restart