Kasey Kahne looking for more Loudon magic

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Compared to the majority of Sprint Cup tracks, Kasey Kahne reckons that New Hampshire Motor Speedway is “a little different.” And as he comes back to the “Magic Mile” to defend his Camping World RV Sales 301 title, the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is hoping for different luck to go with it.

Kahne was contending for victory in the final laps last weekend at Daytona International Speedway until teammate Jimmie Johnson blocked a charging Marcos Ambrose, who then went into Kahne and sent him skidding into the inside backstretch wall. It continued a string of tough results for the Enumclaw, Washington native, who has only collected two Top-10s – and six results outside the Top 20 – in the last ten events.

Luckily for Kahne, his victory earlier this year at Bristol has kept him in one of the two wild card spots for the Chase. But a little insurance wouldn’t hurt, and another victory at Loudon would be useful in cementing his place in this year’s playoffs. Last summer in the Granite State, he converted a front-row start into a win on the flat mile, pacing 66 laps along the way.

“It’s fun to race at tracks that are a little different so I like New Hampshire,” Kahne said earlier this week. “It’s a flat, one-mile track, and you drive the car a lot different there with the braking and the way you pick up the throttle.

“I feel like Turn 3 is probably the toughest part of New Hampshire because it’s rough getting into the corner, which makes it easy to lock up your brakes, get loose or slide the car over the bumps. So just trying to really work on that through practice and not give up anywhere else in the corner is usually key for me there.”

Kahne will start eighth in tomorrow’s race at NHMS as one of three Hendrick Motorsports competitors within the Top 10 of the grid (Dale Earnhardt Jr., third; Jeff Gordon, fifth). This morning in final practice, he was ninth (132.757 mph) in the session, which was led by Brian Vickers (133.417 mph).

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.