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Kasey Kahne’s astounding turnaround

Hendrick driver's wild roller coaster ride of a season looks to have one more unexpected twist

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, Nov. 02, 2012

Kasey Kahne’s roller-coaster ride of a season looks to have one more unexpected twist.

Kahne, who started his first season with Hendrick Motorsports so poorly he wondered about job security, suddenly finds himself with a chance to contend for the Sprint Cup Series championship against teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Following his third-place run in Sunday’s Tums 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Kahne is fourth in points, 29 behind leader Johnson.

The margin might be too much to overcome in just three races, but Kahne certainly has a chance at a top-three finish – all of which might have appeared as unreachable goals early this year.

“I still feel like I have a chance because of the way the points are. You can have a bad race. Denny (Hamlin) lost tons of points (Sunday) just by things that happen in racing. It’s part of the sport,” Kahne said.

“So, yes, we definitely still have a shot. But we’re a ways out. I wish we were within 20 or 15. I think we’d be a lot more legit at that point.”

Kahne has a chance to make more inroads this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. He finished seventh in April at Texas and won in May at Charlotte, a sister track to Texas.

After his strong finish Sunday, Kahne talked about working with the likes of Johnson and Jeff Gordon and the season with Hendrick Motorsports.

Q: What kind of examples have Jeff and Jimmie been to you this year?

This year they’ve been great. Been nice to sit in every debrief before the race, after the race, practice, the weekly ones, just listen to those guys. Pick up on little things here and there, just try to get better.

They are two of the best guys I can learn from. That’s been good. As far as places like Martinsville, I haven’t learned a lot from them. They haven’t told me any of their secrets. I get to drive really good cars here, the same stuff that they’re in. That helps.

Q: This has been a successful year at Hendrick, but a weird one, with several stretches without any wins.

I think all four cars have been really fast throughout the entire season. So close to win that 200th win until Jimmie won it at Darlington (S.C.). I think there were six, seven, eight second places in a row in the last 11, 12 races where none of us won a race for HMS. I feel like we’re there each week, between one of the four cars, or all four cars. We could very well win the next three.

Q: How much value is it to watch Jimmie go through a whole championship-style year?

Well, how many has he got? Five? I’ve been racing with him for five, so I’ve watched some of those as closely as I can from being part of another company and racing for some of the other teams that I have. So I’ve watched that. I’ve got beaten by him plenty of times over the years.

This year, being his teammate, I’ve been watching how good the guy is, how good his team is, how good they work together at every track, kind of diagnose the car, the track, get that balance that he needs, then he takes it from there. It’s impressive what they do.

I’m glad to be part of it. Even though he beats me more times than not, I’m still trying to learn, listen, be part of it. Hopefully at some point we can catch up to him a little bit.

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