Kasey Kahne, driver of the Budweiser No. 9 car, no doubt breathed a sigh of relief after his third place finish at Chicagoland Speedway. After following the Hendrick dynamic duo, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon, to the finish line, Kahne celebrated his own great run.
Kahne could breathe just a bit easier after his good finish, at least in respect to his position in the Chase points standings. He jumped from twelfth place to the eighth position in the race for the Chase and was the highest mover in the points to date.
Kahne has had a roller coaster, "hold your breath" kind of season so far. He has bounced around between the fourteenth and seventeenth points positions for most of the first part of the season.
Kahne has also had a breathtaking amount of change so far in 2009, especially in regards to his team. While he had been comfortably ensconced in the Gillett Evernham camp, with a particularly close relationship with team owner at the time Ray Evernham, Kahne has been bounced this season to Richard Petty Motorsports, thanks to the two teams' merger.
With the formation of Richard Petty Motorsports, Kahne had to next find his place amongst the three other drivers in the new merged team, including Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson and A.J. Allmendinger.
Most important though, Kahne has also been grappling with the challenges of the equipment, especially the engines. He has had success now that Richard Petty Motorsports has been more consistently running the R6 engine.
Kahne acknowledges that he has had a decent season to date and that the new engine package has been most helpful. He also admits that, "We still have work to do."
The No. 9 RPM Dodge driver, has really started to find his groove after his race win on the road course at Infineon. That win catapulted Kahne into the thirteenth position in the points standings.
Kahne had a top ten finish at New Hampshire, but slipped a bit at Daytona, always a wild card track with the "big one". He did advance to the twelfth points position after that race weekend, barely nudging himself into Chase contention.
But his Chicagoland finish placed him squarely into the Chase in the eighth spot. While still not absolutely secure in the Chase, Kahne can breathe a bit easier and certainly has the momentum going his way headed into the final races before the Chase begins.
Kahne's finish this past weekend was his best career finish ever at the Chicagoland Speedway. This race was also Kahne's 199th start.
Of his run this past weekend, Kahne breathlessly said in the media center after the race, "The car was good from the drop of the green."
Kahne continued, "The restarts were tough. We went from sixth to second and back to third."
Jeff Gordon, who had fresh tires, battled Kahne royally for that second spot. Kahne breathed a sigh of relief to bring home the car in one piece in that third position.
Kahne admitted that there was a lot of fuming and fussing on the track. Some drivers were upset with one another, while others were just battling it out mightily on the restarts.
"It was chaos on the restarts," said Kahne. "It was craziness for the drivers but great for the fans."
Kasey Kahne can at least breathe a little sigh of relief, now that he is more securely placed in the Chase. He will still have much work to do in keeping himself in the championship contention.
Kahne's next race will be at the Brickyard and then he will head off to Pocono, where he has traditionally run well. In the meantime, he will most likely be letting off some steam on the off weekend, returning to his USAC and dirt track racing roots.