Kasey Kahne and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) rally back from a late-race spin for a Top-20 finish at Texas Motor Speedway, the team’s home track.
The weekend began with practice and qualifying on Friday showing similar results with little speed. During qualifying, Kahne made two runs, but did not have enough speed to make it past the first round, earning himself a 28th place starting position for Sunday’s 500-mile race.
Saturday’s practice brought better results and speed, as well as optimism for the team, as Kahne gained eight spots to finish final practice in 20th.
The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 went green only three laps on Sunday before the first caution came out. Kahne restarted in 22nd before cracking the Top-20, gaining nearly 10 spots from his 28th place starting spot.
By lap 26, Kahne felt as if he was dragging the front of his No. 95 Procore Technologies Camaro ZL1 before settling in the 22nd position. The car began to get worse, and Kahne made his first green flag pit stop on lap 42 for an adjustment, tires and fuel. Kahne settled into the 23rd spot but was still unable to get a handle on the car. A frustrated Kahne went a second lap down before a caution came out to end the stage, putting Kahne in 24th to finish out stage one.
The second stage began on lap 91 with Kahne starting 26th. He reported no difference in the handling of his car, and made another pit stop when the second caution fell on lap 127.
Kahne was able to race the best he could all day following the pit stop and finished the second stage in 23rd. Crew Chief, Travis Mack, made the call to take the wave around option, putting Kahne the last car one lap down to start the final stage in 21st.
Kahne made it as high as 13th before making another green flag pit stop with 102 laps remaining and also made his fastest lap of the race. As Kahne raced the No. 6 for the Lucky Dog Spot, the two made contact and spun through the grass. Kahne did not have any damage until his right front tire went down, shredding the fender. The team made multiple stops under caution to cut off the right, front fender and make the needed changes.
The field went back to green on lap 254 with Kahne restarting 18th. The team pit for the final time on lap 281 within their fuel window. Despite not having a front fender, Kahne was able to finish 17th, earning LFR their best finish of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season.
“We just missed it really, really bad early on, but it got a lot better as we went,” said Kahne. “We would have definitely run in the Top-15 if I didn’t spin out. But, we had a much better car the last 150 laps than we did during the first part of the race. We came a long way, I can tell you that. We were way more competitive this week.”
Next up for Kahne and LFR is Bristol Motor Speedway for the second short track race of the 2018 MENCS season.