News & Media


Kahne leaves his 'worst track' with top-10 finish

February 28, 2011, Jill Erwin, NASCAR.com

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Perhaps the biggest surprise of Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway was that Kasey Kahne didn't take control of the excavator poised to tear up the frontstretch.

Phoenix, which will undergo a radical repaving job between races, has never been a good track for Kahne. So for him to escape a carnage-filled race with a sixth-place finish was a victory of sorts.

"I felt like the adjustments and things we did Friday, we had a good car for the race today as long as we kept up with the track. "

--KASEY KAHNE

"I'm really excited they're repaving it," Kahne said with a smile after Sunday's race. "I actually really like this place. I raced midgets and Silver Crown and all that stuff here and really have always liked this track. As far as Cup racing goes, I'm looking forward to the new one."

Kahne has never been lucky at PIR. His average finish on the one-mile flat track is 21.5, and he hasn't had a top-10 finish there since the fall of 2006.

For him to find good luck on a day when so many got caught up in the bad was as out of character as anything anyone could have predicted.

"We went to Disney and tested in January and felt like we had a good test there. We pretty much came here and ran similar to how we ran at Disney," crew chief Kenny Francis said. "This has always been a tough track for us. It just never really seemed to suit our style.

"We've always struggled getting off the corners, struggled spinning the tires. I feel like we hit on some stuff that helped that, and that was probably the biggest thing that helped us."

While Kahne was in no mood to take any undue credit, Francis was more than happy to dish it out. Two accidents -- the five-car accident with Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards on Lap 59 and the 13-car pileup involving Brian Vickers on the backstretch on Lap 67 -- were not an issue for Kahne largely because of a call the driver made on Lap 51.

Kahne came in for tires and fuel on the first pit stop, at Lap 21. Francis left the decision up to him after Trevor Bayne spun to bring out the caution, and it paid off well.

"I got really lucky there," Kahne said. "I actually was on the inside of Brian and Matt [Kenseth], so I kind of saw it happen, but we had stayed out on that pit stop before that; otherwise I probably would have been involved in either one of those wrecks. I think it was luck that saved us there."

"Yeah for sure, that definitely saved us," Francis said. "I don't remember what the sequence was, but we decided at the last second. It worked out perfect."

Pit road was a benefit for Kahne throughout the race. Francis said they continued to work on the car after losing some positions early. Kahne qualified third, but was down to 18th after 45 laps. He was fifth on Lap 60 after that first multi-car accident and remained in the top 10 for the vast majority of the race.

Kahne said the overnight rain, which basically washed the rubber from Saturday's qualifying and Nationwide race, gave him a fresh start for the race.

"The main thing was Friday," Kahne said. "I felt like the adjustments and things we did Friday, we had a good car for the race today as long as we kept up with the track. Then with the rain and things, it changed the track some and it took us a while to catch back up to the track but we did it."

This was a different Phoenix race than either Kahne or Francis had been involved with. The adjustments for multiple short runs as opposed to the extended green-flag racing that each was expecting became a challenge.

"We stayed sort of near the front all day, though the beginning of the race was kind of a struggle trying to figure out what to do on those short cautions," Francis said. "All in all, it was a good day. You know, you're never really comfortable unless you're leading and pulling away [by] two-tenths [of a second] a lap."

Kahne never got comfortable to where he felt assured of a top-10 run. So when the checkered flag fell and he escaped his personal nadir, he was more than ready to escape town and head on to Vegas with a top-10 finish in his pocket.

"The Red Bull guys did a great job the whole race with the pit stops and getting the car better; Kenny made some good calls," Kahne said. "It was a great run. This is my worst track so I felt pretty good the way things ended up today."