These sort of pressure cooker-type situations should really feel like second nature to Kasey Kahne at this point.
Kahne, the man that made the Chase by winning the next-to-last regular season race and then earned the 12th and final spot in the current Contender Round by a mere two points, is now holding a one-point lead over Matt Kenseth for the eighth and final advance position to the Eliminator Round going into next Sunday’s cut race at Talladega.
One wonders if Kahne went “Ho-hum” upon being told of that following his 10th-place finish in last night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte – a result that he himself thought was better than expected.
“It was better than we ran most of the night,” said Kahne, a four-time winner at Charlotte in his Sprint Cup career. “We just struggled. The only way I could get it to turn in the center was to be so loose.
“Then it would still get tight after 15 laps, so we would go slower at that point. So we just tried a lot of things and never really got it going.
“Tried to stay out there at the end we were seventh and ended up tenth. We kind of finished where we were running the last 60 laps, but it wasn’t a great night for us at all.”
But it was enough to move him from eight points behind the cutoff at the start of the night to a slim lead over Kenseth, who finished 19th and saw his own previous eight-point cushion disappear (and got in a post-race dust-up with Brad Keselowski).
Kahne figured that next Sunday’s GEICO 500 at ‘Dega will feature a good amount of strategy in the first three-quarters of the race followed by “a lot of guys who just have to race at the end.”
It figures to be a wild time in Alabama, but Kahne’s confident that he can keep himself in the Top 8 and move on to the next round.
“We have good, fast cars for those types of tracks,” he said. “…I think Talladega is a track I have always liked and look forward to.
“Sometimes, you can’t control everything and that is something that will be the same for all of us…It will be interesting how it all works out. It will be a lot of pressure on everyone. It will change throughout the entire race all the way to the checkers.”
Kahne has never won at Talladega in his career, but has a pair of runner-ups from 2006 and 2009. He finished eighth there this past spring in a race won by Denny Hamlin.