Sonoma win still fuels Kahne's confidence

Saturday, Aug. 08, 2009

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Could it be right turns lead Kasey Kahne straight into the Chase for the Sprint Cup?

It’s certainly shaping up that way.

Since arriving in the Cups series full time in 2004, Kahne hadn't scored a top-10 finish on a road course in 10 attempts until his breakthrough victory in June at Sonoma, Calif.

It was the unlikeliest of wins at the most opportune time for the 29-year-old Washington state native.

Kahne was sitting outside the top 12 in the series standings - the cutoff to qualify for the Chase - and hadn’t visited Victory Lane since June 2008 at Pocono.

The win propelled Kahne into the top 12 and using the same car he won with in June, Kahne could cement his spot in the Chase with another win or strong finish in Sunday’s Heluva Good! at the Glen at Watkins Glen International.

“The way we ran at Sonoma changed our whole outlook on road courses," Kahne said.

"This could definitely be a good track for us this weekend. I may not have said that had we not won at Sonoma.”

His statistics certainly back that up.

In five previous visits to the Glen, Kahne has not finished better than 14th. He has, however, been consistent and finished on the lead lap each time.

Kahne is now seventh in points and 180 ahead of Kyle Busch, who is 13th with five races remaining before the Chase field is set. A good run Sunday should leave him with a comfortable margin to ensure he is battling for the championship.

“You know, I don’t feel super confident, but I definitely feel good where we’re sitting right now,” Kahne said. “I feel like if we keep it up, we’re going to be in good shape.

"But things can happen so easily, by your own error or just by racing situations. It’s just the way racing goes.”

It’s also a scenario Kahne has experienced before in the Cup series.

“Last year right before the Chase, we had an engine problem at Michigan. We were running top 10, right around 10th. Then at Bristol we were running top 10, about eighth, then got in that wreck a few other guys caused on the frontstretch that took out eight or 10 cars.”

So, here Kahne is again, in position to challenge for the Cup title but with a twisting, 11-turn obstacle standing in his way.

“I’ve always like the road courses. I always qualified good and could run a couple good laps, but in the races I never was fast at the right times or late in the race,” Kahne said. “That was our biggest problem.

“We seemed to figure that out at Sonoma. We ran fast the whole race.”

With repeated trouble and frustrating finishes on NASCAR’s road courses, Kahne said he was beginning to think he just wasn’t cut out for road racing.

"I was thinking for a while, ‘Maybe I just can’t go fast for that many laps. I don’t know what the deal is,' " he said. “But we showed we can.

“I’ve always felt that you need to be able to win at any of these tracks NASCAR goes to if you think you’re a good driver and you think you have a good team.”