With a sixth-place finish as Pocono on Monday, Kasey Kahne has put the past in the rear view mirror and is focusing on a stretch of races that he expects to perform well at.
In the latter part of the 400-mile event at Pocono, Kahne surged through the field to be the third Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top six, Jimmie Johnson crashed out on Lap 122.
“Our car was real solid,” Kahne said post-race in Pocono. “I think we can take something similar to Michigan next week, it’s a similar racetrack in a lot of ways.”
Sitting 18th in the point standings, 13 markers behind the Chase cutoff, Kahne and the No. 5 team are coming to a string of racetracks that the team has normally ran well at.
Kahne has won at each of the next two race tracks, Michigan and Sonoma. In his career the summer months have fared well for him. He’s won at tracks including New Hampshire, Pocono and Bristol in a little over four years with Hendrick Motorsports.
Compared to last season, the No. 5 team is sits 10 positions further back through 14 events. However, it was the summer months that led to the downfall of Kahne and his race team in 2015.
In the final 12 races leading up to the Chase in 2015, Kahne averaged a 22.6 average finish, dropping him from eighth to 18th in the standings. That’s where he finished the season in points, the lowest since 2010 when he was 20th in the point’s, driving for Richard Petty Motorsports.
“I’m frustrated a lot,” Kahne said of his season. “I hate running bad. I’m not happy with the results. Two weeks in a row at Charlotte we should have been competing for top fives and we had no chance.”
The No. 5 car has an average finish of 16.7 thus far in 2016, having yet to lead a single lap.
His three Hendrick Motorsports teammates have combined to lead 360 laps, including a race-high 51 by Chase Elliott in Pocono.
Kahne believes that this next stretch of races could make, or break his year. Paired with crew chief Keith Rodden for the second consecutive season, the duo needs to perform up to Hendrick Motorsports standards.
“This is good for momentum just to know that we hit on a couple of things with the car,” Kahne said after finish sixth. “I look forward to running something very similar at Michigan and then we’ll go to Sonoma and that’s probably my favorite racetrack. Hopefully we can run really well and start clicking off top 10s each week in order to get into Victory Lane.”
Kahne has two top-five finishes so far this season with a pair of fourth-place efforts at Richmond and Dover. In each of the past two seasons, the No. 5 car finished in the top five, three times.
As the circuit comes to some of Kahne’s favorite tracks, he must continue to put a line of consistency on the board in order to make this year’s addition of the Chase. If not, it will be his third consecutive season of finishing 15th or worse in the point standings.