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Kahne strives for stability entering summer stretch

June 11, 2013, Holly Cain,

Recent slide a source of concern for No. 5 team

TAMPA, Fla. -- One by one drivers climbed out of their cars Sunday afternoon at Pocono Raceway and shook their heads in amazement and competitive frustration at the dominating way Jimmie Johnson raced to the win.

Greg Biffle said Johnson was in a league of his own. Matt Kenseth said Johnson’s Chevy had shown itself as the car to beat since teams unloaded there.

But there was at least one driver who absolutely still feels his car was every bit as strong as Johnson’s: his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne.


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Problem was, Kahne never got to challenge Johnson.  Instead he spent the whole afternoon laps down after a fluke mechanical problem with his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy on the race’s opening lap.

“I never watched him (Johnson) check out on the field because we were 20 laps down early and when I was on the track, we were the fastest car so I didn’t feel like that,’’ Kahne said. “I felt like I was the best car there, just 20 laps down.’’

While it was a highly uncharacteristic showing for Kahne’s team, it was troublesome because Kahne seems to have the fast cars, but not always the showings for it.

It was still on his mind Tuesday when he attended the Tampa Bay Buccaneers mini-camp, catching passes from Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman and helping to promote the July 6 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Kahne is taking nothing for granted and insisted that he is equally as concerned about making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field this year as he was worried about it in 2012. That’s saying something considering he’s currently ranked eighth -- solidly among the guaranteed top-10 positions -- and was 16th at this point last season before pulling off a summertime rally.

After ranking as high as second -- 37 points behind leader Johnson -- in April, Kahne has slowly slid down the standings despite having good cars. His 36th place at Pocono was his fourth sub-20th effort in the last six races. While it dropped him only one position to eighth, it’s still the lowest he’s been in the championship since March.

“My (points outlook) is not that great right now,’’ said Kahne. “We’ve dropped so much in points in the past couple weeks I feel like we’re on the verge of really needing to get a ton of points to get back to where we need to be. I don’t feel any better now than I did last year at this time.’’

The good news for Kahne, is that his cars have been fast. He has a win at Bristol and a pair of runner-ups (Las Vegas and Charlotte).

“At Pocono, once we came back on track we were the fastest car there but we were too far behind because of a mechanical problem at the start,’’ Kahne said. “I feel like we’ve been as good as anyone all season long, we just don’t have the results to show for it. And that’s what gets me.

“So as far as points go, if we keep doing that, we’re going to miss the Chase. We’ve got to work on some things and if we can start finishing where we’re running it will be simple to make the Chase.

“I do feel like we can go out and win any given weekend.’’

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman trades a jersey for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne's fire suit on Tuesday at the Bucs' training facility. (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

(Center) Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano welcomes NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne (left) and Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III, a Tampa native, to the Bucs' training facility on Tuesday. (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)