You could hear the sense of relief in his voice. When Kasey Kahne pulled his Dodge into victory lane last May at Richmond International Raceway, he felt like a 3,400 pound gorilla was finally off his back. It was just his second season in NASCAR...
You could hear the sense of relief in his voice.
When Kasey Kahne pulled his Dodge into victory lane last May at Richmond International Raceway, he felt like a 3,400 pound gorilla was finally off his back. It was just his second season in NASCAR Nextel Cup racing, but after finishing second in six races, he was starting to wonder if he would ever claim his first win.
It was Kahne's only win last year in what ended up being a disappointing 23rd place finish in the championship standings. But he already has two wins this year and is fourth in the point standings. Kahne is clearly focused on claiming a spot in the Chase for the Championship.
"I knew myself that I needed to get in the Chase," said Kahne, who already has six top-10 finishes in the first nine races of the season. "I knew we could perform. It's just a matter of getting the right people in the right spot and working with them, having good communication. (Team owner) Ray (Evernham) set all that up for this year and we've been performing. We've been doing everything really well, communicating really well and had some great finishes. I'm very happy with what's going on, and I know Ray is too."
As a rookie, Kahne racked up 13 top five finishes, including second place runs in two of his first three races. Kahne and everyone around him expected that he would make the jump to the next level and compete for the championship. Despite claiming his first win, Kahne obviously slumped as a sophomore.
"I think there is a different mind set," said Kahne, who managed eight top-10 finishes in 2005. "Last year, all I wanted to do was to try to win races. I didn't even think about points half the time. Basically all I thought about was winning and that was the wrong approach. This year, it's more about making sure we finish every race, being consistent, getting the car to drive really well in practice, and having better cars in the race. And that's what I've focused on. Just being consistent and finishing is the main the thing year."
With his team on the rebound this year, Kahne is looking forward to returning to Richmond for the Crown Royal 400 on Saturday (7:00 p.m. Eastern on FOX).
"It's important to go back there and run well," said Kahne, who cruised to an eighth place finish in the second race at Richmond last season. "You'd love to do it two years in a row, (but) I know things are going to be a lot different this year. We tested there and the setup that we ran last year was two seconds off the pace. It wasn't even where we needed to be. So we had to do a lot of work to figure out a new combination, and hopefully we'll have that when we go back and be able to put up a good fight."
Kahne was involved in a multi-car crash last weekend in Talladega that knocked the wind out of him and left him a little sore on his left side. The medical staff on site at the race recommended that Kahne be examined again this week before getting back into the car.
"We just got in the wrong spot in that crash," said Kahne, who ran just 17 laps at Talladega. "They decided to go five wide on lap nine, and I think it was way too early to do anything like that. I just got hit in the door, and it basically knocked the wind out of me. I just needed a minute to catch my breath (but) because of asking for a minute they thought I was hurt when really I was just asking them if I could just (have) a minute and then we'll be fine. I feel great."
Kahne would feel even better if he can bring home another trophy from Richmond this weekend.
"I'm definitely looking forward to Richmond," Kahne said. "I'd say the biggest difference is that (we've) won at that track and we feel we can win there again. I didn't go in there with like really high expectations. I guess I should have went in with higher expectations, because it's just a track that we can run good at. Once I win at a track, I'll go back there the rest of my life knowing I've won here at least once, I can win here again if things go right."