RELATED: Chase Grid " Chase bubble watch " Chase Fest details A year ago, it was Kasey Kahne . Only two races remained before the start of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , and the Hendrick Motorsports driver was 13th in points. Unfortunately, he was outside the top 16 in the Chase standings. Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin , AJ Allmendinger , Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola trailed Kahne in points. But they were among those that had wins. They had invitations to the dance. At the time, Kahne had managed only two top-five finishes. His average finishing position was 16.8. He hadn't been to the victory lane since midway through the previous season. So he and his team went out and won at Atlanta Motor Speedway . It earned Kahne one of the final Chase spots and the No. 5 team a second chance. It wasn't quite as easy as it sounds. Kevin Harvick , as was often the case, was dominant at AMS. Kahne fell a lap down early. The team battled back. He didn't take the lead for the first time until Lap 303 of the scheduled 325-lap race. Suddenly, he seemed to be on his way to the win. Then cautions appeared, forcing two late restarts. Green, white, checkered late. Kahne's lead was lost on pit road. Yet somehow he muscled his way past Matt Kenseth coming to the white flag, holding on for the win and a spot in the Chase. It's a similar position for the 35-year-old this year. Two races remain -- stops at Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway -- before the field is finalized for this year's 10-race run to determine the Sprint Cup champion. Kahne is once again winless. He is not alone. Teammate Jeff Gordon has finished inside the top five only three times this year. The four-time champion is ahead of Clint Bowyer in the playoff picture, with a wider margin back to folks such as Aric Almirola and Greg Biffle . A year ago Gordon had three wins and a vise-like grip on first place in the points. Bowyer's got a pair of top-fives, but much of the attention around the No. 15 team of Michael Waltrip Racing centers on where Bowyer will call home next season. Paul Menard has a razor-thin lead on Gordon in points, but taking nothing for granted. Can anyone? Matt Kenseth 's blown engine at Bristol last week, leaving the Joe Gibbs driver 42nd in the final rundown, didn't go unnoticed. Things not only can happen, they often do. With 10 drivers already secure -- 11 if you go ahead and give Kyle Busch one of the spots although he's close enough to the fault line that a misstep could make things interesting -- and two races remaining, at least three of this year's Chase spots will be filled based on the points standings after Richmond. It could be five, if no new winner emerges in the next two weeks. Few on the fringes, though, have shown signs of contending for wins. Almirola? One top five and only three laps led this season. Biffle? It's shaping up to be the wrong type of career year for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, with just two top-fives and an average finish of 20th. Austin Dillon ? Kyle Larson ? Both have shown potential. Both are winless. Kahne ? Well, who knows? The question isn't can it be done. Kahne's already proven that it's possible. The question is who among those can pull it off?
Driver hits hard coming out of Turn 3, exits race RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings LONG POND, Pa. -- Kasey Kahne lost control of his No. 5 Chevrolet on Lap 4 of Sunday's Windows 10 400 , hitting the inside pit wall and bringing an early end to his day in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway. "I just got really loose really late, so far off the corner," Kahne told reporters outside the infield care center. "Really late exit. Not sure why or what happened. I just jumped out and you are so far off the corner that it's a slow slide so far down pit road. It was crazy. I've never ended up over there like that. I don't know why that was." Kahne came off of Turn 3 and smacked the wall of pit road hard around pit stalls 39 and 40, which were the pit boxes of AJ Allmendinger and Travis Kvapil . The hit caused major damage to Kahne's car and damage to the pit road wall. A NASCAR spokesperson confirmed there were no injuries in the incident. For his part, Kahne said "I'm fine" and added that "I wasn't afraid I hit anyone because it threw me right back off the wall. I was hoping that everybody saw me coming because I was coming fairly fast." Pocono Raceway President/CEO Brandon Igdalsky and track workers inspected the damage before workers welded the damaged wall as a red flag was displayed. That red flag lasted 14 minutes, 43 seconds. The incident was similar to what happened to Jeb Burton and his No. 26 Toyota in Saturday's final practice session. Burton came off of Turn 3 loose and went into the pit road wall. The damage from that hit forced the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate to a backup car for Sunday's race. The early exit and last-place finish for Kahne could not have come at a worse time for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. After an eighth-place finish at Sonoma Raceway in June, Kahne was eighth in the point standings. Since then, Kahne has not finished better than 19th, with a 32nd-place result at Daytona, 27th-place finish at Kentucky, 19th-place finish at Loudon and a 24th-place result at Indianapolis. "That's really bad for points," Kahne said. "It's bad for just our team to lose a car that quickly into this race. And the last month has been really bad, and that was worse. I don't know what the deal is right there, how that happened. I just lost it, late exit and spun. Got loose, spun." Entering Pocono, Kahne was 13th in the point standings and holding the second-to-last spot in the provisional Chase Grid. Sunday's 43rd-place finish unofficially dropped him to 15th in the points standings, but he's still in the Chase Grid in the No. 16 spot. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
After wrecking out of the race for the second straight week at Watkins Glen and falling off the 16-driver Chase Grid last Sunday, Kasey Kahne knows what he has to do to make NASCAR's playoffs -- the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . "At this rate we’re going to need to win," Kahne said. "That's the only way we'll go into the Chase. We've got to get a little better. I need to get a little better." Kahne has four races left to get that win, starting with Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). The No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports driver claims one victory at Michigan (June 2006) and believes he can adapt well to the high-drag track-specific rule package that will be used there this weekend. "There were times at Indianapolis when we were really quick with that package," Kahne said. "I know they’re working hard to bring a little less drag and more downforce there for us, all four of us (at Hendrick Motorsports ). So hopefully we can run good at Michigan and maybe get a win there." Kahne finds himself in a similar position to where he was last year prior to the Chase. Too low in points to qualify without a victory, Kahne won the second-to-last race of the season at Atlanta to punch his ticket into NASCAR’s postseason. While Michigan is not Kahne ’s best track historically, he has proven he can win at a variety of loops, with victories at 11 different venues including short and intermediate tracks and road courses. "The main thing is that all of the equipment we get at Hendrick Motorsports is good enough to win every weekend," Kahne said. "We need to get on the ball here and do that, and I don’t see any better weekend to do that than the next one."
Kevin Harvick will also start from the front row in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 RELATED: Full qualifying results " See the 43-car lineup BROOKLYN, Mich. – Kevin Harvick had his sights set on a clean sweep of knockout qualifying at Michigan International Speedway —until Kasey Kahne had other ideas late in Friday’s final round. Kahne sped around the two-mile track in 35.645 seconds (201.992 mph) to knock Harvick off the pole for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). Harvick, who posted a 201.613 mph lap in the final session, had topped the charts in the first two rounds, matching Kahne's pole-winning time in the second. The Coors Light Pole Award was Kahne's first of the season and the 27th of his career—but his first since the October 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway . Brad Keselowski (201.449 mph) qualified third, followed by Carl Edwards (201.067 mph) and Ryan Blaney (201.056 mph), who is running a partial schedule in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. With a 2012 repaving project having narrowed the racing groove at Michigan, Kahne underscored the value of starting up front—and staying there. "It's going to be really important," said Kahne , who also gets the benefit of selecting pit stall No. 1., closest to the exit from pit road. "The track is going to change a lot, though, come Sunday, with all the racing going on this weekend and then our practices (on Saturday). "The track will be a lot different Sunday. So, there will be some passing for sure, but it's not going to be easy. So track position will play a big role in being there at the end of the race." Harvick remains the only driver to sweep all three rounds of qualifying at a single track, a feat he accomplished last year at Michigan and Indianapolis, but he fell .067 seconds of doing so for a third time. "I don't know that I got everything out of it (the final lap), but the rounds were within seven hundredths (of a second) of each other, " Harvick said. "The guys were doing a great job, and Kasey just got a little bit better lap there than we did." With possible rain in the forecast, Blaney was nervous as qualifying approached, but not because of the competition. If rain had washed out time trials, the Wood Brothers Racing car would not have made the field, based on fewest qualifying attempts this season—a product of a limited schedule. "It was funny the way it played out," Blaney said. "It looked like two cells coming at us (on the radar), and a small slit in the middle of them, and we passed right through that slit. That was just kind of lucky for us. "Like I said, it would have stung knowing how good of a car we had in practice if qualifying rained out. We're fortunate to get it in, and it's a bonus to have a good race car." Brendan Gaughan , who unlike Blaney would have benefited from a rainout, failed to make the 43-car field.
Hendrick driver kicks off Shark Week with special paint scheme SHOP: Kahne gear RELATED: Kahne driving full throttle into Cup future The instructions were simple enough. If you lose your balance or get knocked over, don't wave your arms. Don't attempt to catch yourself. The sharks will come after you if you do. As if racing at nearly 200 mph while surrounded by 42 others all battling for the same real estate wasn't dangerous enough, Kasey Kahne recently spent a few days in the water in the Bahamas. Surrounded by sharks. "One time one rubbed me pretty good; the back half of him hit me," Kahne said. "I didn't go over, but he rubbed me pretty good. Another time another one was pretty close, and I was like petting him in a way. I don't know if you pet sharks, but I touched his skin. It was real hard and rough, really tough." Kahne , driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series made the trip to film for Discovery Channel's upcoming Shark Week effort that kicks off Sunday night. Great Clips, a primary sponsor of Kahne's team, has backed the network's annual week-long programming for the past three seasons. "Maybe they weren't Great Whites, but they were big," Kahne said of the scuba diving excursion that placed him in the water surrounded by Caribbean reef sharks and other creatures from the deep. "I enjoyed it ... it was a neat experience and I'm really glad I got to do that." Kahne said he went through an hour-long class to familiarize himself with the equipment and the process. After diving to just under 40 feet, he settled in as a fellow diver drew the sharks in with food. "The biggest thing is just to keep your hands to yourself, don't move your hands because they're looking for food," Kahne said. "We had a guy down there in something like a steel mesh suit feeding them to keep them around us. So keep your hands to yourself, kind of keep them close to your chest and if a shark runs into you, just fall over. "You're seated on the floor, kind of have your legs wrapped around a rock to kind of hold yourself up because you're on your knees. Just fall over and kind of slowly get back up. "It was more about not making quick moves so it doesn't get their attention. It was really under control, really exciting. I loved it." Kahne's No. 5 Chevrolet will feature a Shark Week/Great Clips paint scheme for Sunday's Coke Zero 400 (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) at Daytona International Speedway. RELATED: See Kahne's paint scheme "I grew up as a kid watching a lot of the Shark Week shows," he said. "I still do and it'll be pretty fun to see myself on there for 2-3 minutes. I think kids love that type of stuff and I think that's why it's such a big deal to Great Clips. All the kids that they see, I think the Shark Week involvement is a pretty neat deal. They do a great job with it. "I had a blast. I'll go back and do it again. I don't know if I'll swim with sharks again -- I don't know how to set all that stuff up -- but I'll definitely scuba." Watch Kahne swim with the sharks below. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Erik Jones will start alongside Kahne in the front row for tonight's event Related: Full qualifying results Making his 2015 Camping World Truck Series debut, Kasey Kahne earned his first career Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Award of the season on Friday night Charlotte Motor Speedway . Turning his No. 00 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at 181.342 mph around the 1.5-mile oval, Kahne -- who led Thursday's opening practice -- will start from the top position later tonight in the NC Education Lottery 200 (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Kyle Busch Motorsports' Erik Jones will start alongside Kahne in the front row, propelling his No. 4 ride at 181.008 mph to claim the second position on the leaderboard. Jones also led Thursday's final practice at Charlotte. Rounding out the top five for tonight's 200-mile event are Jones' KBM teammate Matt Tifft (180.511 mph), BK Racing owner and Sprint Cup veteran Brad Keselowski (180.499 mph) and NTS Motorsports' Daniel Hemric (180.270 mph), respectively. Reigning series champion Matt Crafton advanced to the final round of qualifying and will roll off the grid ninth in his No. 88 ThorSport Toyota. During the second round of qualifying, Kyle Busch Motorsports' Justin Boston spun off Turn 4, bringing out the first caution during the three rounds. The No. 54 driver will start 22nd in tonight's NC Education Lottery 200 . The second round saw a bit of chaos in its final minutes, as several drivers failed to complete a lap and GMS Racing's Spencer Gallagher spun off Turn 4. Gallagher will roll off the grid 18th tonight. Ryan Ellis , Todd Peck and Brandon Brown failed to qualify for tonight's NC Education Lottery 200 . FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Sam Hornish Jr. has issues on the restart and starts a chain-reaction wreck, including Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne at Watkins Glen International.
Kahne also picks up new primary sponsor for three races in 2015 RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today MORE: Rodden to step in as No. 5 crew chief Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday morning that it has signed driver Kasey Kahne to a three-year contract extension, keeping him in the fold through 2018 . "I've found a home at Hendrick Motorsports," said Kahne in a team release. "We have incredible people and partners supporting us, and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction we're headed as a team and a company. It's the right place for me, and I'm looking forward to being here for a long time." The news comes one day after a major shakeup with Hendrick's No. 5 Chevrolet team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, with Keith Rodden accepting a crew chief role and Kenny Francis, atop Kahne's pit box since the 2005 season finale, shifting to the position of vehicle technical director. Kahne , an 11-year veteran and 17-time winner in NASCAR's premier series, and Francis joined the Hendrick organization in 2012. "It's extremely gratifying to work with a driver like Kasey ," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports said in a team release. "I think the world of him both as a driver with championship-level talent and an overall terrific young man. Our whole organization has a great deal of respect for how hard he works, the professionalism he displays with our partners and the way he carries himself every day. We're committed to winning races and competing for titles with him for many years to come." In addition, Kahne will have LiftMaster on board as a primary sponsor for three races in the 2015 Sprint Cup season as well as an associate sponsor for the rest of the races. The agreement will be for the next three seasons (2015 to 2017). LiftMaster will be the primary sponsor for Kahne on May 24 (Charlotte), July 11 (Kentucky) and October 18 (Kansas). "It means a lot to have support from a great company like LiftMaster," Kahne said in a release. "The No. 5 team has high expectations for 2015, and they'll be with us as the primary sponsor at three tracks where we're traditionally very fast. All of us are looking forward to representing them throughout the season and developing a successful long-term relationship." We’re excited to join @KaseyKahne & @TeamHendrick starting in 2015! http://t.co/kZJdDPiroS pic.twitter.com/2aP8Oy7CJr — LiftMaster (@LiftMaster) November 20, 2014 The 34-year-old driver has won five times in Hendrick equipment and notched his best-ever finish in the season standings -- fourth -- in his first year with the team. Last season was a struggle, however, with Kahne posting just three top-five finishes and winding up 15th in the final standings. Kahne qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with a Labor Day weekend victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the next-to-last race of the regular season. Kahne survived the first round of eliminations in the new-look Chase, but was ousted in the Contender Round, the second three-race leg of the postseason. Kahne agreed to join Hendrick in April 2010, replacing veteran driver Mark Martin . After signing the multiyear agreement, Kahne finished out most of the season in Richard Petty Motorsports' Fords, then spent the last five races of 2010 and all of 2011 driving Red Bull Racing's Toyotas before finally landing in the No. 5 Chevy. Re-signing Kahne , whose contract was set to expire after the 2015 season, helps solidify the Hendrick driver lineup. Team cornerstone Jeff Gordon , a four-time series champion, signed a lifetime contract with Hendrick in 1999. Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson is also under contract through 2015, and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., the sport's most popular driver, is signed through 2017. With Hendrick at the NASCAR-mandated maximum of four teams and the unlikelihood of Johnson departing after 2015, speculation will likely rise about the future of 18-year-old prodigy Chase Elliott , the reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion who is under contract to Hendrick and drives for the affiliated JR Motorsports team with co-owner Earnhardt. Team owner Rick Hendrick said Nov. 8 after Elliott became the series' youngest champion that the young driver's career arc will likely include a handful of Sprint Cup races next season, but that there is no accelerated timetable to place him in NASCAR's premier series on a full-time basis. Elliott will return next year to defend his title in what will be known as the NASCAR XFINITY Series, driving JRM equipment. "Another year of seasoning here will be good for him, and we're not in any hurry," Hendrick said. "He's 18 years old." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Hendrick Motorsports driver talks offseason plans, 2015 goals RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Kasey Kahne had an up-and-down 2014. The 34-year-old driver won for a third consecutive year at Hendrick Motorsports , notching the victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the penultimate race of NASCAR's regular season. That late win vaulted the No. 5 team into the Chase and ensured that all four of Hendrick's teams were in it. But Kahne and longtime crew chief Kenny Francis didn't consistently flash the speed that their fans have been accustomed to seeing. The rumor mill began churning with talk of Keith Rodden possibly leaving Chip Ganassi Racing and returning to HMS next year to lead Kahne's team. That move was confirmed shortly after Homestead, as was a new three-year-deal for Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports . NASCAR ILLUSTRATED: What do you have planned for the offseason, anything you're particularly looking forward to? KASEY KAHNE : I'm excited mainly just to have a little break. I need a break away from racing. Looking forward to going home for a few days back to Washington in Enumclaw, hitting a Seahawks game and then heading to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for a week to ski, snowmobile and shop. I'm looking forward to that. NI: Your Atlanta win was the high point of the season. How would you describe the relief of getting into the Chase? KAHNE : It was definitely a highlight as a team and stepping up and working together. Getting a win that night was really nice for us, nice to make the Chase and get in. But I think the win meant more than anything just to show that we're capable if we do things right. When we do things right, we're still capable and we have a lot to look forward to in the future. NI: What are your thoughts on the new Chase format now that you've been through it? KAHNE : It's been really interesting and I personally like it because both winning and consistent teams will advance. In each round, both have advanced, so to me it's kind of like the points system but it's also like a playoff. So I like that. And it's also put more pressure on the teams and drivers every single race, which has created more drama. The fighting, the running into each other, I think it's really made it more intense. It's actually been pretty damn exciting. NI: You and Russell Wilson raised $220,000 in two days during "The Drive" this summer. What does the future look like for the event? KAHNE : Russell's excited and I'm excited about our first tournament together and the first time we worked together on charity. We're gonna do it again next year and try to make it an annual deal. The golf tournament was great and the course and the people involved. We expect to grow it and want to work and make sure it's bigger and better each year. RELATED: Kahne , Super Bowl MVP team up for 'The Drive' NI: What specific areas of your team's performance need to be better in 2015? KAHNE : Really the first thing I look at is speed in practice, qualifying, race. We don't have those fast laps like we've always had in the past. We have to look at that; I have to look at that, we have to look at that as a team. Our pit stops have to be better. You can't lose spots every time off pit road and expect to do well in this series. It's way too competitive. I think both of those things and just the communication and working together, normal things that you have to have as a team. I just think we all need to get a little better at that. I think it will all take care of itself once we get the speed back, once we know we’re putting up fast laps whenever we're on the track. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Will Hendrick driver rebound with familiar face back as crew chief? MORE: Full schedule of season previews Team: Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet Rank in final 2014 standings: 15th Wins: 1 ( Atlanta Motor Speedway ) Year in photos: Kasey Kahne 2014 highlights Strides: Kahne has qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in each of his three years at Hendrick Motorsports , but after a career best fourth-place finish in the 2012 championship standings, he hasn't fared as well. A 17-time race winner in the Sprint Cup Series who has visited Victory Lane in eight of his 11 full-time seasons, Kahne has impressed team owner Rick Hendrick enough to earn a three-year extension on his contract during the offseason. His clutch victory at Atlanta is a reminder of the potential championship-caliber effort that has made him one of NASCAR's elite drivers. Setbacks: After securing a place in the Chase with a win in the next to last regular season race, Kahne only managed a single top-10 in the season's remaining 11 races and never seriously challenged to move past the Contender Round. His three top-fives were his lowest season total since 2007. Last year marked the first time in his career that Kahne went consecutive seasons without winning a pole. Quoteworthy: "I'd say our season was just okay. We didn't have a lot of speed this year. A few races we ran up front, but not often enough. … Hopefully we hit on something a little better this year (2015) that fits my driving style better than we did last year. This past year we just never hit on it like I'd like to." What's next: Kahne is one of nearly a dozen drivers with a new crew chief atop the pit box in 2015. Longtime crew chief Kenny Francis, who has been with Kahne for all but five races since the end of the 2005 season, will move into the "vehicle technical director" position at Hendrick while Kahne's former engineer Keith Rodden takes over the No. 5 crew after spending a year as the crew chief for Jamie McMurray and the No. 1 team at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. "I think change is good and we needed a change," Kahne said. "Keith has been with me before. We have a good working relationship and a friendship. He's aggressive and gets the job done. He likes our team … just needs each one of us to step up and do a better job. I think Keith will be a great leader and take us into a good direction." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule