Kahne picking up the pace as Chase winds down

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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.”

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t go quite as planned, but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”