After leading most laps, Kahne comes up just shy

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Kasey Kahne gave it a good shot in the closing circuits, but had to settle for runner-up to Matt Kenseth today at Las Vegas after leading the most laps out of any driver.

Kahne was a force in the race’s first half and stayed toward the front up to his final pit stop of the day under yellow. He entered pit road first but was momentarily held up by an oncoming Tony Stewart that was going into his pit box, and as a result, he found himself sixth on the restart with 37 laps to go.

Five laps later, Ryan Newman blew up his motor to bring back the caution and after what would be the last restart of the day, Kahne made his way up into second position and battled Kenseth for the win. But while it appeared that his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had an edge over Kenseth in Turns 1 and 2, Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was faster in Turns 3 and 4.

The outcome: Close, but no cigar.

“Matt did everything right,” said Kahne, who led 114 of 267 laps. “When I caught him, I was like, ‘Man, this is not the guy you want to have to race with at 10 [laps] to go.’ He’s gonna do everything right and you’re gonna have to figure out how to squeeze by him.”

Kahne said he briefly considered utilizing the apron in an attempt to pass Kenseth — a move that eventual fourth-place finisher Kyle Busch used on Kahne to grab the lead on a Lap 165 restart — but couldn’t since Kenseth was running that same line.

“I could follow him and stay in his draft a little bit, and stick with him about the same amount, then when I didn’t do that, he’d pull away,” Kahne said.  “It was definitely faster down there if you got a good run off of Turn 4 to do that down the front straightaway.

“I would’ve had to go through the grass, and I don’t think that would’ve been good.”

F1 2017 driver review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 2
Podiums (excluding wins): 2
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 168
Laps Led: 133
Championship Position: 6th

Max Verstappen rise as a once-in-a-generation talent continued through the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if reliability issues meant we were made to wait for his best form to arrive.

Verstappen stole the show in a wet-dry Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th to seventh in the opening lap before ultimately finishing third for Red Bull, yet he would not grace the podium again until the Malaysian Grand Prix at the start of October.

A combination of power unit problems and on-track clashes saw Verstappen retire from seven of the 12 races in the intermittent period, with incidents in Spain and Austria being avoidable.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was his stoppage due to a power unit failure in front of a grandstand swathed in orange at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race tens of thousands of Dutch fans had attended to cheer Verstappen on.

But when Verstappen got things right, it was – as he frequently quoted – simply, simply lovely. There was plenty left in the tank, as proven by his sheer domination of the races in Malaysia and Mexico as he took the second and third wins of his career.

Perhaps even more impressive was Verstappen’s victory over Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the qualifying head-to-head battle this year, an area the Australian has traditionally been strong in. Verstappen outqualifed his teammate 13-7 – it wasn’t even close…

All in all, Verstappen once again proved that on his day, he is one of the finest talents to grace F1 in recent years. With the right car underneath him next year, a title fight is certainly possible and will be the target – but there is always room for improvement.

And that is the scary part: Verstappen is only going to get better and better.

Season High: Dominating in Malaysia after an early pass on Lewis Hamilton.

Season Low: Crashing out on Lap 1 in Austria.