In 2012, his first season with Hendrick Motorsports in the legendary No. 5 Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne got off to a rough start: after the first six races, he sat 31st in points in spite of having top 10 starts – including two poles – in five of those races. Things finally picked up with the seventh race at Texas, and by Charlotte in May (the 12th race of the season), Kahne picked up his first win. On the strength of a second win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, Kahne found himself in the Chase for the Sprint Cup as a wild card, and used that as a springboard to a fourth-place finish in points.
In 2013, Kahne once again got off to a troubled start – 36th at Daytona and 19th at Phoenix – but has rebounded nicely in the past two races: with a runner-up finish in Las Vegas and a win at Bristol, he finds himself up in seventh place in points already. The soon-to-be 33-year-old driver isn’t looking at the championship race yet, however.
“The championship is still a long ways away, but I think (we’re off to) a good start,” said Kahne during a recent NASCAR teleconference. “Just off to a much better start than last year. Feel good about that. We got a little behind at the start of the season and fought back clearly in the last two weeks and got back to a good spot. So I feel good about where we're at, feel good about the speed of our car and our team, and that's what it's all about is just being on the right page, same page with all the guys. Right now we're really working well together and enjoying it, and we have some momentum and confidence after Bristol and really looking forward to Fontana.”
His disappointing finish at Daytona was somewhat disheartening for Kahne, who is in his 10th year in the Cup Series. “The Daytona one was kind of tough on me,” admitted Kahne. “I've never had a car that fast at Daytona, at any race at Daytona, and especially the Daytona 500. That was tough to figure that out and understand how I ended up crashing when we were running single file around the top just kind of waiting because that's all you could do with that package is you just kind of wait until later on to race. So yeah, I was discouraged with that one, and it took me a couple days to get over it.”
With two top-two finishes going into this weekend’s race, the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on March 24th, Kahne has momentum on his side – and plans to use it for all it’s worth.
“I definitely believe in momentum,” stated Kahne. “I know I've tried to work hard over the years to get more consistent because that was definitely my weak spot since I've been in the Sprint Cup Series. Yeah, I feel really good about where we're at right now, and the momentum is huge. Confidence, momentum, from the driver to the pit crew to the crew chief, I mean, every aspect of putting our car on the track, I think when you have momentum and confidence it helps. I've been in situations before where I've felt like everything was fine, like I wasn't - like I was driving every bit as hard as I usually do and all that, and then I won a race and realized, man, now I'm like rejuvenated and have a boost of energy again to race and things. So I think it definitely helps, and sometimes you don't realize it, but when you are on the upswing and things are going well, everybody feels it, and it's a big part of running well.”
The Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series visit Auto Club Speedway Friday through Sunday, March 22nd through 24th for the Auto Club 400 and the Royal Purple 300, respectively. Stay up-to-date with NASCAR at www.nascar.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by NASCAR Media.
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