Jeff Gordon’s consistency has him near the top of the Sprint Cup standings. Jimmie Johnson has rattled off back-to-back victories. And Dale Earnhardt Jr. has stayed steady since opening the season with a Daytona 500 win.
All three of those Hendrick Motorsports drivers have assured themselves a place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But the fourth driver among them, Kasey Kahne, has been largely anonymous.
His third-place run at Kansas is his only Top-5 finish so far this season. For a time in Sunday’s FedEx 400 at Dover, it appeared he’d collect another one, but a loose condition on his car caused him to fade to 19th at the checkers.
With such inconsistency, Kahne has fallen into the group of drivers battling to “steal” a win that can propel them into the Chase. The good news for him and his No. 5 Hendrick crew is that Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway presents a prime opportunity.
Last June at the “Tricky Triangle,” Kahne was undone by a first-lap vibration that forced him into the garage. Once the issue was solved and he returned to the track, he threw down the fastest lap of the race 51 times – more than anybody else – but finished 36th.
But when the Cup circus returned to Pocono in August, Kahne followed through and defeated Gordon in the final laps to pick up a second 2013 win that effectively sealed a Wild Card spot in the Chase.
Currently sitting 18th and winless in the championship, Kahne could use some more Pocono magic.
We’ve got 10 drivers currently locked in the Chase Grid. Out of those that are still without W’s, you figure the two drivers that are most likely to chalk one up soon are Matt Kenseth (the current points leader) and Tony Stewart (who always catches fire in the summer).
Plus, there’s always the possibility of the road courses and restrictor-plate tracks yielding a winner that hasn’t always contended everywhere else (think Marcos Ambrose at Sonoma/Watkins Glen or Danica Patrick at Daytona in July).
With all of that in mind, Kahne needs his break-through sooner rather than later. But considering his recent success at Pocono, this weekend could be it.