Kahne looks to resurrect NASCAR season
Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson head to Lowe’s Motor Speedway this week looking for help from an old friend, but for different reasons.
Kahne, who won both Nextel Cup races at this track last season, is mired at 30th in the points chase this year, with just one top-10 finish, that in the season-opening Daytona 500.
“We’re just missing on setup,” a Kahne said Tuesday. “Last year we had it figured out. This year we haven’t.”
This has come as something of a surprise to the NASCAR community, considering Kahne’s six wins in 2006 and his eighth-place finish in the season points.
It’s also shocking to Johnson, who had Kahne on his short list of drivers who would provide the toughest challenge to his hopes of a championship repeat.
“Without a doubt I thought he was going to be a contender for the championship and race wins like he was last year,” Johnson said. “I think it’s been a shock to myself and I’d say most of the racing community, especially to them. I know they’re not real happy with where they are right now and are working hard to fix that.”
It was suggested to Kahne that a win in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, a continuation of his 2006 success at Lowe’s, would be good for what ails his struggling No. 9 Evernham Motorsports team.
“I’m thinking we’ll be better this weekend, hopefully have a shot at a top 15 at the end of the night,” Kahne said, expanding that when a team is running as inconsistently as his, the road back is a tough one. First, the team has to find a way to be competitive, then it can think of winning.
“You don’t come from finishing 20th or 25th to suddenly winning again,” Kahne said.
Johnson, the 2006 season champion, is second in this year’s points chase, trailing Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon. But Johnson could be poised to make a move on this track, where he’s won five of 11 career starts, had 10 consecutive top-10 finishes and has finished no lower than third over the past three years. The car sponsored by Lowe’s has dominated at the track which boasts the Lowe’s name.
When Kahne won twice last year, it was Johnson finishing just behind him.
“If we weren’t there, he’d have won two more. He’d have seven,” Kahne said.
“Running second is still a big thing, a big honor,” Johnson said. “We want to win. We feel like this is one of our best tracks to win at. The statistics show that. We’re eager to leave here with a victory.
“If we don’t — end second — we still did a good job.”
Kahne knows Johnson is the favorite in this race, and any others on this 1 1/2-mile track.
“He understands the race track, and his team, they understand it too,” Kahne said. “He’ll be definitely the guy that you have to beat this weekend if you want to win the race.”
For Kahne’s part, he’s just trying to keep himself and his team upbeat.
“I was feeling like I was getting down a little bit a few weeks back,” he said. “Now I feel like I’m where I need to be, just trying to keep the guys motivated, working on things that we need to work on. If we keep doing that, it will get better, for sure.”
|Kasey Kahne’sresults in 2007 and 2006:|