NASCAR AMERICA: Kahne’s in Chase, but knows he and No. 5 team must improve (VIDEO)

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Kasey Kahne’s victory on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway saved the season for himself and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team.

But leading up to Sunday, Kahne and the 5 camp had largely struggled in 2014, while all three of his HMS teammates – Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson – had each won multiple races.

In order to hang with them, Team Penske, and everybody else during the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kahne recognizes that he and his entire team need to step up – and step up big.

“We need to build off of this,” Kahne told NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan in Victory Lane at Atlanta. “We have more confidence, we’re gonna have some momentum, and we won at the right time. But as a team, we need to be stronger together.

“We need to make less mistakes – myself, the pit crew, every part of it. Hopefully, tonight will get us all pointed in the right direction. We’ll show up at Richmond and go all-out again, and be prepared for the first [Chase] race in Chicago.”

For more of Kahne’s interview with Ryan, as well as Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman’s own thoughts on how Kahne will fare in the post-season, check out the NASCAR AMERICA clip above.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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