After getting wrecked at The Glen, the Hendrick Motorsports driver has had enough with Joe Gibbs Racing
The accident ended Kahne’s day, costing him a solid top-12 finish and, worst of all, punted him four positions back in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, dropping him from a guaranteed top-10 position to 12th with four races remaining to set the Chase field.
“He texted me, I don't know, five to eight times apologizing, trying to explain what happened, how he felt really bad about how it happened and all that stuff,’’ Kahne said of Kenseth. “I understand and I appreciate the texts.
“At the same time, we're trying to get in the Chase. It hurts when you get wiped out when you're minding your own business. It's happened enough this year that I don't know what I can do about it, but I definitely am not pleased. It's really annoying and upsetting.’’
With Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch still celebrating his win in The Glen’s Victory Lane, a frustrated Kahne took to Twitter Sunday evening and half-jokingly invited someone from the organization to meet up with him at the team’s headquarters when everyone returned to North Carolina that evening.
That was the fourth time a JGR driver has collided with Kahne this year. And yes, he’s counting.
“Headed to Joe Gibbs racing to talk to whoever will come out front #that’s4,” Kahne tweeted.
JGR driver Denny Hamlin -- the only one of Gibbs’ three drivers not to wreck with Kahne this season -- answered him by saying “I’ll talk to you, my friend.’’
Kahne chuckled about the exchange, but said Tuesday he is still miffed. Kahne believes if you take away the four Gibbs-induced crashes, he might well be door-to-door with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for the championship lead.
So while the normally mild-mannered Kahne admittedly had a little fun with the situation on Twitter, make no mistake, enough is enough.
“I wasn't happy about Matt crashing me at Watkins Glen at all,’’ Kahne said. “I feel like we had a great car and we were trying to make moves, come up through there. I don't know if he had a problem with (Marco) Ambrose. He said he didn't. Other people around, seemed like he might have.
“I don't know what happened. I just know he missed the corner, wiped me out. I gave them guys plenty of room. It was frustrating to get crashed at that point in the race for something like that.
“The whole Gibbs thing, this is the fourth time this year a Gibbs car has crashed me when I've been running. I mean, that was 11th. But the others were for first, second, fifth. We've lost tons and tons of points because of those guys. It doesn't sit real well with me at all.’’
The 34th place at Watkins Glen certainly made Kahne’s win the previous week at Pocono even more important. With a pair of victories, Kahne currently holds the first of two Wild Card berths. But he’d prefer to race his way back into a guaranteed top-10 place in the standings, where his two victories would land him bonus points to start the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup. As it stands now, Kahne’s two wins plus bonus points would place him fifth in points when the Chase started.
“I think it was really big,’’ Kahne said of his Pocono victory. “I don't like not being in the top 10, but I feel a lot more secure. I feel like our chances are a lot better because of the Pocono win after falling back out of the top 10 because of getting wiped out at the Glen. It was a big win, it was really good. It helped all of us out.
“These next four tracks are good tracks for us. We want to race our way back in. We want to get those bonus points to start the Chase. Hopefully we can start on that this weekend at Michigan.’’
Kahne won from the pole position at the super-fast, two-mile Michigan International Speedway in 2006, but has had wide swings of fortune since. He was leading when his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy suffered a flat tire in the Cup Series' first visit to Michigan earlier this summer. He was third in this race a year ago.
Kahne’s first win of the season came at next week’s venue in Bristol, Tenn.
“I think the most important thing to me is to get into that top 10 and not have to use a wild card,’’ Kahne said. “In order to do that, we need to be consistent. It would be great to get another win and get some more of them bonus points when the Chase does start. Michigan is a good track; Bristol, Atlanta, all of them are tracks we won at.
“I feel like mine and my team's consistency is as good as anybody's. If everybody else could control their car in those situations we've had, we'd be in the middle of battling for the lead in points. That's very easy to see for myself.’’
As for luck and being in the right place at the right time, Kahne has taken a philosophic approach.
“I feel like all you can do to change your luck is work hard, do the right things,’’ Kahne said. “I try to be a good person. I try to work hard before the races and be as prepared as I can be once I get there. I race people the way I expect to get raced. I don't crash people.
“I've still gotten wiped out five times this year. It's discouraging, but I think I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. Hopefully they all figure it out. I don't know. Hopefully it just quits, I guess.
“I think over time it runs a path and a pattern. It all kind of comes around eventually.”