Kasey Kahne, RPM Have Strong Showing in Hotlanta

Billy FellinCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2010

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 28:  Kasey Kahne, driver of the #9 Budweiser Ford, races Paul Menard, driver of the #98 Moen/Menards Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 28, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With the Carl Edwards-Brad Kesolowski incident grabbing all the headlines from Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500, another storyline is there, but not a lot of people are talking about it.

Richard Petty Motorsports may very well be back.

Most NASCAR fans are used to seeing Kasey Kahne, in the red Budweiser Ford Fusion, be the successful one out of the RPM stable. As the flagship driver, that is to be expected.

However, Paul Menard in the Moen's/Menard's Ford Fusion and AJ Allmendinger in the Insight/Best Buy Fusion had stellar days in Atlanta.

While Kahne led the most laps on the day with 144 and had the chance at the win on the final restart had Juan Pablo Montoya not spun his tires, he has been struggling overall thus far this season. He had good starting positions in both the Daytona 500 and at Auto Club Speedway, but both races he was 30th and 34th finishes, respectively.

Kahne bounced back at Las Vegas finishing ninth and dominated most of the day at Atlanta, finishing fourth. He is beginning his ascent from the depths of the point standings, making a six position move up from 23rd to 16th.

Menard on the other hand has had a quietly solid year. After his fifth place finish at Atlanta, the 98 car sits ninth in points. Granted, it is early in the season still, but this has to be a huge confidence boost for that team that has had its struggles in the past.

Atlanta was Allmendinger's best finish of the season by far, after posting 32nd and two straight 25th place finishes at Daytona, California, and Las Vegas respectively. Allmendinger sits 23rd place and looks to be gaining at least some momentum going into Bristol in two weeks.

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The only RPM driver that did not get to enjoy his teammates' good fortune on Sunday was Elliott Sadler in the Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Fusion. After a qualifying effort of sixth place, Sadler found himself mired mid and far-pack for most of the race, finishing 19th. He currently sits in 25th in points, but in two weeks, he enters into the picture at Bristol as a past winner in Thunder Valley.

Many people coming into the year saw Kahne having all the tools to be successful if he was able to put the changing culture at RPM out of his mind. It seems that the 98 team is where they need to be already though to be competitive. The 43 might not be that far behind.

If the 9, 43, and 98 can start getting their momentum going in the same direction, this would probably do great things for the 19 team as well as go far in helping make Kahne's decision easier come the end of the season about whether to re-sign with RPM or find another team to drive for in 2011.

Only time will tell, but from their performance at Atlanta and Menard's consistency, it seems that RPM might finally be heading in the right direction where they can be a competitive team week in and week out.