Auto Club 400 - Practice

Kahne was in no-win situation either way during final laps at Bristol


After he was caught in a crash triggered by Matt Kenseth two weeks ago at Watkins Glen, Kasey Kahne had a seemingly perfect opportunity to extract payback last night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Kahne has had multiple run-ins with Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing stablemates this season, but as he rose up to challenge the former Sprint Cup champion in the closing laps of the Irwin Tools Night Race, the anticipation for him taking revenge was palpable.

Did every single soul inside Thunder Valley expect him to do that? Maybe not every one, but likely, the vast majority did. It’s Bristol, where justice is often meted out with the proverbial “chrome horn.”

And considering what happened at the Glen, Kahne probably would’ve been met with wild cheers if he put Kenseth in the fence. But instead, Kahne looked for the clean way around.

As the laps wound down, he tried desperately to make the low groove work for him against Kenseth and couldn’t. He then went right behind Kenseth on the top groove, but didn’t pull off a “bump and run” maneuver and was defeated despite having the faster car of the pair.

“I think at the end of the day, I just don’t wreck people,” said Kahne, who won at Bristol this past spring but couldn’t claim a third 2013 win that likely would’ve cemented a spot for him in the Chase.

“I don’t know how all that was going to work out. I needed a win bad, but I also needed a finish, and I just didn’t do anything crazy. I just basically ran as hard as I could, tried to pass [Kenseth] two different times and ran on his bumper and hoped he’d screw up, and he really never did.”

As tempting as it may be for some to say that Kahne simply didn’t have the fortitude to retaliate against Kenseth, it bears noting that Bristol is a different beast than it once was.

The high groove – which is where Kenseth was throughout his battle for the win with Kahne – has become the fastest way around. Even if Kahne had managed to really tag Kenseth’s back bumper and wreck him, it’s likely he would’ve also been collected as well.

In hindsight, Kahne was damned no matter if he raced clean or raced for revenge. By choosing the former, he’s opened himself to criticism over whether he has any “edge” at all. But if he had gone with the latter, both he and Kenseth may have wound up on the hook.

Mercedes set to clinch F1 constructors’ championship in Russia

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 08:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP speaks with members of the media in the paddock during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 8, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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For the second year in a row, Mercedes is poised to wrap up the Formula 1 constructors’ championship in Sochi at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Mercedes won its first F1 teams’ title in Russia last year, having returned to the sport as a works constructor in 2010. When it last enjoyed such status in the 1950s, there was no championship for the teams.

Just as it did in 2014, Mercedes has dominated proceedings in F1 this season, winning all but three races and sweeping to eight one-two finishes to leave drivers Lewis Hamilton (pictured) and Nico Rosberg battling for the drivers’ title for the second straight year.

Now, Mercedes seeks the knock-out blow in the constructors’ title race by officially wrapping it up in Sochi this weekend.

To do so, the team must simply outscore rivals Ferrari by three points this weekend. The lead currently stands at 169 points, with 215 still on offer. After Sochi, there will be 172 remaining.

“We return to Russia with positive memories from last season, when the team sealed the first constructors’ title for Mercedes-Benz with a one-two finish,” team boss Toto Wolff said.

“A repeat performance in Sochi would be fantastic and this is absolutely the target – but we are under no illusions that it will come easy. The job is not done yet.”

The tire allocation for this weekend’s race could pose problems to Mercedes just as it did in Singapore, potentially allowing Ferrari to spoil the party and delay the victory celebrations at Brackley.

However, if the form book is to be trusted, Sochi could be playing host to another Mercedes party on Sunday night with a second world title in the bag for the Silver Arrows.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Charlie Kimball

Charlie Kimball
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the driver-by-driver recaps following the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season, with a look at Charlie Kimball, who finished 12th this year.

Charlie Kimball, No. 83 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 14th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 4 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 16.3 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 12th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 3 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 21 Laps Led, 13.3 Avg. Start, 13.1 Avg. Finish

“Super Chuck” – as NBCSN’s Townsend Bell has called him in the past – had another typically “Super Chuck” season. He produced some dizzying heights, made a few mistakes, and posted a lot of consistent runs in the middle that ultimately netted him 12th in points for the season.

We wrote last year that one of the areas where Kimball most needed to improve was his qualifying, and a three-spot year-to-year gain from 16.3 to 13.3 delivered that improvement. Problem was, in a Chevrolet top-heavy grid, Kimball might have been qualifying better, but he was qualifying behind at least seven or eight more fancied Chevrolet runners. In a Honda, you worry if Kimball’s grid positions this year would have dipped into the low teens or high 20s, rather than only just missing advancing into Q2 as was often the case.

While Barber and Mid-Ohio had served as his standout races in the past, the undoubted highlight of Kimball’s 2015 season was his quiet early – then dynamic late – drive to third in the Indianapolis 500. It was a performance that was particularly impressive given he was up against past series champions Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power and Scott Dixon, who were all vying for the win. Another podium at Sonoma was his first on a road or street course since Detroit race two in 2014, and put him third in points in the two double points races for the year.

But mistakes occurred all too regularly in the 14 standard points events, where he ranked 14th among all drivers. Contacting Dixon in Detroit, surviving a nightmare weekend in Iowa with multiple incidents, and coming together with Graham Rahal in St. Petersburg – even though Rahal was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact – were all moments he’d like to have back.

Kimball’s five years into his IndyCar career and there’s enough evidence to suggest now his breakout 2013 season was an outlier, not the norm. But seasons like 2014 and 2015 prove he still has plenty in hand to cut it at this level, and together with his entire Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team, an overall asset to the sport.