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.”