Kasey Kahne hopes he’s back on track.
Kahne, who had a season-best fourth-place finish Sunday in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, has had a tough time of it in recent seasons. He hasn’t won since Atlanta in 2014, a streak of 56 races. Before Richmond, he hadn’t had a top-five since Kansas on Oct. 18.
So his performance at Richmond – coupled with an eighth-place at Texas on April 9 – is cause for optimism.
We were so far gone there for a little while, it takes time to start getting back to where we need to be.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“It’s a slow process really,” Kahne said. “We were so far gone there for a little while, it takes time to start getting back to where we need to be. We’re heading that direction now, so it’s really nice.”
Kahne missed the 2015 Chase, but that gave his No. 5 Chevy team more motivation during the offseason. But an inconsistent start turned the hopefulness into frustration.
“That’s the good thing about sports in general, and definitely racing,” Kahne said. “You have two, three months off. During those months off, you prepare and think you’re the best driver, think your team’s the best. You go into each season saying, I’m excited for this year, I’m excited because we’re going to be good, it’s going to be a strong year.
Kahne was 4th at Richmond, but he usually struggles at Talladega, site of Sunday’s race
“Then we started and we weren’t. We weren’t and we were. There were some bright spots at times, but not nearly what we wanted.”
Kahne hasn’t performed as well as his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., or even rookie Chase Elliott, who is ahead of Kahne in the points standings.
Team owner Rick Hendrick “gives us great race cars,” Kahne said. “He has for a long time. We haven’t performed near where we should have in a lot of those weekends. It’s not the car. It’s a lot of other things. It all comes with being a strong team.”
17 Career victories for Kahne
Next up for Kahne is Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, a track where he hasn’t fared particularly well (he averages a finish of 21.5 there in 24 Cup starts).
But he’ll head to Alabama with the memory of Richmond fresh in his mind, a top-five finish that has washed some of his doubts away.
“I knew we really needed to go to work or I needed to find something different to do, because it was getting as discouraging as it could be,” Kahne said. “It’s nice to have three solid weekends and we’ll keep building from here.”