August 15, 2013 | By Bruce Martin
Kahne Ready To Face Pressure Of Making Chase In Stretch Run
After finishing 34th at Watkins Glen International, the pressure is on Kasey Kahne to pick up the pace to make “The Chase.”
Kahne, an Indianapolis resident when he was a United States Auto Club (USAC) star in Midget, Sprint Car and Silver Crown racing, heads to Michigan International Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday, Aug. 18 sitting 12th in points. That leaves him outside of the top 10 in standings that would automatically make the Chase after the Sept. 7 race at Richmond International Raceway.
But fear not for Kahne. His two wins put him first in the Wild Card standings. The two Wild Card positions go to the drivers in positions 11-20 with the most victories after 26 “regular season” races.
Kahne heads to the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway for the Pure Michigan 400 with one career victory at that storied race track in Michigan’s Irish Hills.
“I feel really good about making the Chase,” Kahne said. “I feel good about getting into the top 10 and racing our way in. I think we've been fast at those tracks and good at all the tracks that we have left on the schedule this season. I'm excited about it. I think we're in a good spot.”
Kahne drove a Dodge to victory for team owner Ray Evernham at Michigan back in 2006. It is his lone win to go along with seven top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 19 starts. Now with Hendrick Motorsports, he was third in this race last year and 38th in June 2013.
“I think the Michigan deal, we were really fast the first race, had a right front tire go down, blow out, hit the wall hard, so our day was over,” Kahne said. “But we were leading at the time. I feel good about going to Michigan. Those types of tracks seem to suit us pretty well.
Kahne realizes he needs a rebound from last week’s effort at Watkins Glen, when a crash with Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing sent Kahne off to Twitter to vent his ire.
“I wasn't happy about Matt crashing me at Watkins Glen at all,” Kahne said. “I feel like we had a great car and we were trying to make moves, come up through there. I don't know if he had a problem with Marcos Ambrose. He said he didn't. Other people around seemed like he might have. I don't know what happened. I just know he missed the corner, wiped me out. I gave them guys plenty of room. It was frustrating to get crashed at that point in the race for something like that.
“The whole Gibbs thing, this is the fourth time this year a Gibbs car has crashed me when I've been running. I mean, that was 11th, but the others were for first, second, fifth. We've lost tons and tons of points because of those guys. It doesn't sit real well with me at all.”
Kahne has not spoken to Kenseth, but the two have exchanged text messages. Kenseth has apologized for his role in the incident, Kahne said.
“I understand and I appreciate the texts,” Kahne said. “At the same time, we're trying to get in the Chase. It hurts when you get wiped out when you're minding your own business. It's happened enough this year that I don't know what I can do about it, but I definitely am not pleased. It's really annoying and upsetting.”
Kahne believes his superb physical fitness is an advantage at this point in the season. He runs a great deal. While other drivers trying to make the Chase get stressed at this time of year, Kahne believes his fitness keeps him cool and calm.
“The nice thing about running is you can do it anywhere,” Kahne said. “I'm able to still get out there, get a good sweat in, get some miles each day. I feel good about that. I really think it helps for the Chase because I feel better at the end of the season. When it's all said and done, I still feel motivated, not completely drained and worn out.
“I remember the first couple years I was in the Cup series, by the time we got to Homestead at the end of the year, I was so happy for the season to be over. Probably the last two years really, I've been wishing it went a couple more races. I think a lot of that has to do with running, the physical work that I put in each year.”
If Kahne makes the Chase, he can look back to the week before his Watkins Glen crash when he drove the No. 5 Hendrick Chevrolet to victory at Pocono International Raceway.
“I think it was really big,” Kahne said. “I don't like not being in the top 10, but I feel a lot more secure. I feel like our chances are a lot better because of the Pocono win after falling back out of the top 10 because of getting wiped out at the Glen. It was a big win, it was really good. It helped all of us out.
“These next four tracks are good tracks for us. We want to race our way back in. We want to get those bonus points to start the Chase. Hopefully we can start on that this weekend at Michigan.”
Kahne wants to avoid the pressure of going to the 26th race of the season at Richmond and having to race his way in to make the 12-driver lineup that will compete for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. But he has plenty of experience with that stress and can handle it.
“I've been in that position a lot over the years,” Kahne said. “We just always seem to be right on that verge there, right on the edge of making it or not making it. I've gone through it. I kind of enjoy it. I kind of enjoy the pressure, like to have to be perfect that weekend, things like that. It's been good. It's worked out for us most of the time. We've been able to make the Chase when we're in those positions.
“I feel pretty good about it, don't mind it. I'd rather have that pressure late in the season. We haven't had it late in the season yet. We just have to keep working at that. Hopefully we'll have a little pressure when Richmond comes, and hopefully we'll have a little more at the end of the year.”
More pressure at the end of the season would mean Kahne is battling for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title. And Kahne can take a big step toward that this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
“I think with the two wins, that helps, takes some of the pressure off,” Kahne said. “If we can run strong the next few weeks, I think we'll be in a really good spot, just try to put those final 10 together.
“That's what it's all about.”