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Kahne finally finds a finish to match his start

April 16, 2012, David Caraviello,

FORT WORTH, Texas -- At Texas Motor Speedway, Kasey Kahne's transporter was parked on the side of the Sprint Cup garage reserved for the lower-ranking teams in points. Late Saturday night, the Hendrick Motorsports driver rolled his vehicle to a stop between the cars of David Gilliland and Reed Sorenson -- who had finished six and seven laps down, respectively -- and climbed out after taking perhaps his first steps back toward NASCAR's higher-rent district.

Hendrick's newest and most beleaguered driver finally showed what he's capable of, shaking off weeks of accidents and misfortune to record his best finish since moving to the most successful team of NASCAR's modern era. Despite a near-miss on pit road and a loose race car earlier in the event, Kahne placed seventh to notch his first top-10 since last season's finale at Homestead -- which came with another organization, Red Bull, that isn't even around anymore.

"It's nice to put a full race together, and have to go through a lot of adversity through the race and still get a good finish."


"It's nice to put a full race together, and have to go through a lot of adversity through the race and still get a good finish," Kahne said. "We all got better as it went, so that was good. I'm not pleased yet, but it was good. We have some work to do. We have to start these races better. I think that is just myself figuring out these cars and what the balance of the end of practice, where that is going to start us in the race. We have been going in the right direction, but we are still not there."

After what he's been through already this season, Kahne knows all about adversity. There were the three wrecks he suffered through at Speedweeks, including one in the Daytona 500. There was the miscommunication with his spotter at Bristol that led to another accident. There was the blown engine two weeks ago at Martinsville. For a little while, at least, there was the real threat that Kahne might dip below the top 35 in owners' points, which would force him to qualify for the next race on speed.

That didn't happen, but Kahne still found himself buried in the standings -- he was 31st coming to Texas -- which accounted for his somewhat unfamiliar surroundings in the Sprint Cup garage area. Through it all the No. 5 team was bolstered by the knowledge that the cars were fast, something evident in qualifying most weeks. That was the case again in Fort Worth, where Kahne rolled off fifth. The problem wasn't the start of races, but the finish. Something just always seemed to intervene before they could get there.

Not so Saturday, when Kahne came home seventh despite battling the handling on his race car for the first 100 laps. "We were very loose from the drop of the green," he said. "We were loose there at the end, but we made some gains. We weren't as loose at the end, so we were able to kind of come back through. I think at the end, the last 15 laps or so, we were one of the better cars. We have some work to do. We are still trying to figure these things out a little bit, but we are getting better."

Kahne also survived a close call in the pits, when he was forced to back out of his stall in an early stop when he found himself pinned in by neighbor Bobby Labonte, who was pitting in front of him. "As soon as I saw his guys jump off the wall, I just hit the brakes and got super lucky," Kahne said. "We could have torn the right-front up. I'm glad it didn't happen, but we definitely had to fight back. That slowed us down a lot. We probably lost 10 seconds on that at least."

At the finish, though, he was all smiles. And then it was off to an awaiting airplane for a late-night flight to North Carolina, where Kahne was scheduled to compete in Sunday's Camping World Truck Series event at Rockingham Speedway.

"I like the Rock," said Kahne, who finished second in the final Cup event at the track in 2004. "I haven't raced there in a while. I look forward to racing there. Brad Sweet qualified it fifth, so I think we have a pretty good truck."

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