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By Monte Dutton- NASCAR This Week
Could it be that Kasey Kahne has finally turned the corner?
Kahne, 32, won his third Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend, meaning that four of his 13 career victories at the Sprint Cup level have occurred at the 1.5-mile track, where he also won the Sprint All-Star Race in 2008.
But Kahne, who is from Enumclaw, Wash., has never finished better than eighth (2006) in the point standings. This year, Kahne’s first at Hendrick Motorsports, began slowly, but now he has reeled off consecutive finishes of seventh, eighth, fifth, fourth, eighth and first, advancing from 31st to 15th in the standings. The latest CMS victory was important in terms of one of two wild-card slots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but, with 14 races remaining in the regular season, Kahne is only 42 points behind 10th place Carl Edwards. The top 10 automatically advance into the Chase.
“The win’s really important for us to make the Chase and keep moving up in the points,” Kahne said. “You’ve got to win to make the Chase.
“We just need to stay after it and keep doing the things we’ve been doing.”
Kahne and teammate Jimmie Johnson are the hottest drivers in the sport. Although Roush Fenway drivers Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth are atop the point standings, it would be premature at this point to suggest Hendrick isn’t still NASCAR’s best team.
“Our team is solid,” Kahne said. “Our car is solid. Mr. Hendrick gives us everything we need to win races and run up front. Finally we were able to put it all together.
“But next week (Dover) will be a new show. We have to figure it out again next week in practice. It’s just tough. The competition is stout. It’s hard to just move through the field and pass cars because everybody is so fast. The cars are so competitive right now, it makes it difficult.”