Kasey Kahne gets fired up in New Hampshire appearance

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Because of their celebrity and popularity, NASCAR drivers get to do some really cool things when they’re away from the racetrack.

But NASCAR star Kasey Kahne got to do a really hot thing Wednesday when he took a crash course – no racing pun intended – in fire fighting and rescue techniques at the New Hampshire Fire Academy in Concord, N.H.

Our good friend, Boston Globe sportswriter Mike Vega, was on hand when Kahne took part in the event to help promote the July 13 Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which will be dedicated to first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice, being killed while doing their job.

Those first responders include Brentwood, N.H. police officer Stephen Arkell, who was shot and killed last week while responding to a domestic dispute (and resulting house fire and explosion) that received national attention.

Also slated to be honored at the race will be Boston Fire Dept. Lt. Joe Walsh and firefighter Mike Kennedy, who were tragically killed in a blaze on March 26.

Kahne was presented with a custom-made fire helmet emblazoned with his name and title of honorary fire marshal. He then donned regulation fire fighter’s gear and went through a number of scenarios that may have been the first time for him, but are what regular firefighters go through routinely in the course of their jobs.

Click here to read Vega’s account of Kahne’s day.

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Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “