Kahne leads most laps en route to runner-up finish

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Kasey Kahne led a race-high 138 laps tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway but was unable to hold off eventual winner Brad Keselowski in the closing laps and had to settle for a second-place result.

However, the finish serves as the best by far for Kahne and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kahne opened the post-season with a 12th place finish at Chicagoland, but stumbled with a 37th place finish at New Hampshire after crashing early on, and then put up finishes of 13th and 15th at Dover and Kansas.

You had to figure Kahne was due for a good result and that Charlotte would be a pick-me-up of sorts considering his strong history at the 1.5-mile oval (four wins, nine Top-5s). After tonight’s race, Kahne said he wasn’t sure why CMS seems to bring out the best in his abilities.

“I wish I knew how to get my car to drive like it does here at other places,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the tire or the track itself, what it is. But we just always run pretty good here. It’s a confidence, [it] kind of always gives us confidence when we leave here, so it’s nice.”

Kahne first took the lead at the Lap 28 restart, but lost it shortly afterwards to teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. However, he got it back at Lap 44 and would keep it until his first green flag stop 30 laps later.

Once he returned to the front, he proceeded to lead his 1,000th career lap at Charlotte and would continue to run at the head of the field. Jimmie Johnson took the lead from him off a restart at Lap 178, but Kahne remained in striking distance as the race headed for its final conclusion.

Kahne had been told to start saving fuel around 100 laps to go, but the debris caution with 28 laps to go solved that problem for him. Running second at the time, Kahne took two tires and proceeded to take the lead. However, while he was able to clear Jeff Gordon on the final restart of the night, his car didn’t seem to react well later on.

“I thought I did pretty good, but as soon as I got to Turn 1, my left side was a little bit ‑ I could feel they weren’t working quite as well,” Kahne said. “They were just rough, kind of bouncing a little bit, so I knew I was in trouble at that point.”

With 11 laps remaining, Keselowski and Kahne had a dice for the lead and the win. Initially, Kahne turned back Keselowski’s attempt but with nine to go, the 2012 Cup champion was able to clear him off Turn 2.

“It was just about racing hard,” Kahne said. “He drove it into Turn 3 way far to clear me, and I got back under him, so it was a great battle. I had a good time racing with him. We came out on the wrong side of it.”

IndyCar: Turn 5 gives drivers fits in Friday’s second practice at Barber Motorsports Park

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You’ve heard of the Fast Six in IndyCar, right?

Well, Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama was the Frustrating Five – Turn 5, that is.

It almost might be easier to list those drivers that were not bitten by the cantankerous turn on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park layout in Birmingham, Alabama.

Close to 10 drivers in the 23-driver field suffered issues in the turn, ranging from running off the grass and back on, to getting stuck and having to be towed out, to suffering damage.

But by the time the one-hour session was over, Josef Newgarden took a big step towards defending his win from last year’s race there, being fastest in Friday’s second of two practice sessions.

Newgarden covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in a speed of 122.786 mph at a best lap time of 1:07.4345 minutes.

Spencer Pigot was second (125.599 mph/1:07.5372), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (122.129 mph/1:07.7971), Will Power (122.107 mph/1:07.8092) and last week’s winner at Long Beach, Alexander Rossi (122.065 mph/1:07.8326).

Sixth through 10th-fastest were Scott Dixon (122.044 mph/1:07.8445), Ryan Hunter-Reay (121.975 mph/1:07.8829), Takuma Sato (121.652 mph/1:08.0628), Marco Andretti (121.579 mph/1:08.1040) and Graham Rahal (121.572 mph/1:08.1076).

Now, speaking of all the incidents, here’s a list.

INCIDENTS:

* Right after rookie Matheus Leist spun early in the session in Turn 5, fellow rookie Zach Veach spun with about 45 minutes left in the session in Turn 5. Graham Rahal had to take evasive action to miss Veach.

But that wasn’t all, as Sebastien Bourdais followed in almost the same spot with a spin of his own roughly a minute later, and then Gabby Chaves also had his problems in the same turn, going into the grass but avoiding the gravel.

* Simon Pagenaud joined his Penske Racing teammate Josef Newgarden in the Turn 5 gravel. Newgarden spun into the gravel in the first practice session.

* Rookie Rene Binder, who has struggled in his inaugural season, continued to have issues, running into the wall and causing damage to the front end, needing a tow truck to get him righted.

It appeared Binder snapped part of the front suspension in the incident.

* Turn 5 saw James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan run off-track late in the session, but they were able to continue.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The third and final practice of the weekend will take place Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET, to be televised live on CNBC (with an encore performance at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, the weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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