CHARGING, CHARGING … CLEAR …
BROOKLYN, Mich. — The plug hasn’t been pulled just yet while Kasey Kahne remains on Chase life support. Kahne finished seventh in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 and gained two positions in the driver standings to 17th. For Red Bull Racing’s No. 4 team, wins mean everything in the final three events leading up to and including race No. 26 at Richmond.
Kahne ranks ninth in the race to one of two Chase wild card berths. Two victories and a little help can lock in Kahne. One victory and lots of help can do the same.
NASCAR’s wild card criteria says be a top 20 driver after Sept. 10 at Richmond, with a win or two to fall back one. Kahne’s got part one covered. Part two of the wild card: He and the No. 4 team have three weeks to gain on Brad Keselowski (first, two wins), Denny Hamlin (second, one), Paul Menard (third, one) and David Ragan (fourth, one). And in between are winless Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, AJ Allmendinger and Mark Martin.
Kahne improved on his 28th-place finish in June — his first at Michigan with Red Bull — to lead three laps for his seventh top 10 there. He spent 98 percent of 203 laps in the top 15.
“We ran well all day,” Kahne said. “We were too loose but were close. We gained in the points, which is good. We were close.”
Michigan’s been good to Brian Vickers over the years. A winner at Michigan in August 2009, Vickers entered Sunday with six consecutive top 10s at the wide, sweeping 2-miler.
The outcome was a little different Sunday. After starting 26th, Vickers finished 16th as the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota team tried everything to combat the loose-in-tight-off condition. On the final stop the team threw one last adjustment at the car, Vickers restarted 22nd and gained six spots in the green-white-checkered finish.
After his 11th top 20 in 14 Michigan starts, Vickers remained 28th in points.