Is the Worst of Kasey Kahne's 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season Behind Him?

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Is the Worst of Kasey Kahne's 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season Behind Him?
John Raoux/Associated Press

After disappointing finishes of 41st (Fontana), 22nd (Martinsville) and 37th (Darlington) sandwiched around an 11th-place showing at Texas, things may be starting to look up for Kasey Kahne.

Kahne finished 14th at Richmond and tied his season-best finish with an eighth-place showing this past Sunday at Talladega.

And as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves on to Saturday night's race at Kansas Speedway, Kahne may be coming into the sweet spot of the first half of the schedule.

Is there cause for optimism given Kasey Kahne's last two finishes—14th and eighth—heading into Saturday's race at Kansas and beyond?

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Of Kahne's 16 career Cup wins, almost half—seven, to be precise—have come at three of the next five racetracks.

While he's still looking for his first win of 2014, he's also seeking his first visit to victory lane at Kansas and Dover next month.

But Charlotte, Pocono and Michigan have been the source of some of Kahne's best success. And given the season he's had thus far, it's not going to be surprising if Kahne reaches back to some of that old success to keep his recent revitalization in the last two races going upward and forward.

And coupled with that is that Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis are contemplating changing the setup in their No. 5 Chevrolet to setups used by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson or Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Ironically enough, Kahne and Francis are not considering the setup of another HMS teammate, Jeff Gordon, even though Gordon has been on top of the Sprint Cup standings for the last four weeks (and even though like Johnson he also doesn't have a win).

His last two race finishes have pushed Kahne up to 20th in the Sprint Cup points standings heading into Saturday's race at Kansas. But that's still a significant margin away from qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

With 16 races left to qualify for the Chase, a win during that time span would greatly help—although not totally clinch—Kahne's chances. But if he's fortunate enough to win two races in that span, it would put Kahne in the Chase for sure.

Kahne's difficulties this season are not exclusive to just him and his team. Gordon and Johnson have also not won a race, while Earnhardt has one win.

To say the least, it has been a very uncharacteristic year not just for Kahne but for the entire Hendrick operation—Earnhardt not included.

Yet Gordon and Johnson (ranked seventh) have remained in the top 10 by uncanny consistency, particularly Gordon, who has four top-five and five other top-13 finishes in the first 10 races.

In fact, Gordon's worst finish in 2014 was this past Sunday at the always unpredictable Talladega, so you can all but throw that kind of showing out the window—particularly with Gordon headed to Kansas, where he has two career wins, as does Johnson.

Earnhardt has also been all about consistency, with one win and three runner-up finishes, plus a third-place showing, meaning he has five top-five finishes in the first 10 races.

Kahne isn't that far off from joining his teammates in the consistency parade. He just needs a strong top-five—a win would be just what the doctor ordered—to not only continue his recent run, but also to give him and his team the confidence and motivation that if it can win one race, it certainly can win two or more before the Chase begins.

The ball is in Kahne's court.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

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