For the first time since New Hampshire in September, Kasey Kahne actually has somebody behind him in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Hendrick Motorsports driver climbed out of the 13th-place cellar yesterday by finishing second in the Advocare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Kahne emerged as one of the contenders for the win late at PIR as differing pit strategies played out in the final 100 or so laps. On Lap 224, he took the lead from Joey Logano and held it until Lap 246, when he hit pit road under green to take right-side tires.
Another round of green flag stops began with about 50 laps remaining, and when it was over, Kahne was in second place behind Carl Edwards. Off the final restart of the day with 25 laps to go, Kahne ceded the runner-up spot to eventual race winner Kevin Harvick but got it back when Edwards ran dry while leading with two laps left.
“We stayed out longer so our tires were – Harvick was on a lot fresher tires, I guess,” Kahne said. “He was able to stay out longer and came out there at the end and was pretty quick on that restart, got by us. Carl short pitted. That’s how he got so far out front.
“It was interesting, the strategy plays such a big factor here. You have half the field doing one thing and half the field doing the other, and everybody is pitting five, six laps difference on those strategies, as well.”
Kahne improved to 12th in the championship and has put together back-to-back Top-5 finishes going into Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He’s hopeful that he can continue the trend in South Florida and that he can go into 2014 with some confidence.
“We’ve had a lot of things happen to us this year, but we’ve battled back the last two weeks,” he said. “We ran pretty good, fifth and second, so I’m happy about that.
“We’ll try to finish off strong at Homestead with another Top-5 and maybe prepare a little better for next year and try to have a little more consistent, stronger year from start to finish.”