Kasey Kahne hasn’t shocked fans so far this season, or battled inside the top five every lap; however, he’s been consistent, very consistent.
Beginning in Daytona International Speedway, Kahne and the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS began Speedweeks strong. He started 10th in his respective Budweiser Duel and after working with fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., he piloted his No. 5 to a runner-up finish, giving him a fifth place start in the Daytona 500.
The beginning miles of the Great American Race witnessed Kahne overpower fellow competitor Kyle Busch for the race lead, and maintained that advantage until a caution, which would change his day completely. He entered pit road, running inside the top three, and spun when exiting pit road due to the dampness on the racetrack – keep in mind the race had been under a rain delay prior to the incident.
The accident forced Kahne to restart in the rear of the field – which isn’t an ideal position with the new drafting pack at restrictor plate racetracks – and he wouldn’t ever regain a top ten position, and eventually was tangled up in a multi-car wreck. After the confetti cleared from Kahne’s teammate, Earnhardt Jr.’s, celebrating in victory lane, the No. 5 machine was officially scored 31st, which is his fourth all-time worst finish at Daytona.
Entering Phoenix International Raceway after a dismal Daytona running, it seemed the team needed to step up their game – and they did quite nicely.
They qualified 11th and quickly faded in the early going, eventually going a lap down, before crew chief Kenny Francis decided to make some key adjustments that would help Kahne regain the lap he had lost. During the final stint of the event, the No. 5 team flew past cars left and right to finish an acceptable 11th place, right where they began the 500 mile event.
Following a reassuring 11th place finish in Phoenix, the team traveled to the gambling city of Las Vegas, attempting to score their first top ten of the season to really get the ‘ball rolling’.
Kahne began the race 13th and remained inside the top 15 all afternoon, and with 30 laps remaining the team cracked the top 10 and finished a season-best eighth, giving them a little momentum heading forward.
Then, the team prepared for the treacherous, but always entertaining, Bristol Motor Speedway. They rolled off the hauler hoping to repeat last season’s win at the half mile, however, during the first practice sessions, the team understood that wasn’t an easy task at hand.
Kahne practiced 18th, 10th and 19th fastest, which was most likely disappointing, considering the team was dominate here last season. However, Kahne wasn’t giving up yet, he qualified 10th which seemed to give the No. 5 squad all the confidence they needed.
But, the team quickly received a ‘wake up call’ as they were shuffled outside the top ten for the first 100 laps of the Food City 500. Then, the rains came, which wasn’t necessarily a horrible thing for Francis and Kahne, as they’d get to debrief about what happened in the first few runs.
When the engines re-fired, Kahne quickly advanced inside the top ten, where he ran for the remainder of the event, and captured his second-straight eight place finish.
However, finishing eighth wasn’t the big picture, it was the fact that if Kahne can continue posting top ten finishes week in, week out, then the No. 5 team could clinch a Chase berth without a victory – and that’s the ultimate goal for any organization, making the Chase.
While making the Chase without a victory is a great thing to have going for you, Kahne and the No. 5 team are probably still anticipating a win. Nevertheless, despite one bad finish at Daytona, Kahne and his crew have been extremely consistent to date, and now, the team is riding momentum heading into Auto Club Speedway and beyond.