| Photo by Tom Whitmore/|
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“Brad Sweet is going to practice and qualify the truck and then I’m going to race it at Rockingham,” he said Friday. “Turner Motorsports has three really good solid truck teams that can all work together. I feel like it will have a really good solid setup in it on Sunday when I get there.”
When asked why he would want to run at Rockingham 13 hours after racing in the Sprint Cup race at Texas, Kahne said, “I have always liked racing at Rockingham.”
He added, “I like the track, I’ve always enjoyed sliding around the track. I’m pretty excited to be able to go back there and race.”
Kahne's season has been off to a slow start, as have all drivers in the Hendrick Motorsports garage. The organization has yet to claim a win in the first five races of the season, though Dale Earnhardt Jr. does hold third place in the points standings.
Kahne in particular has suffered from a combination of bad luck and mistakes in his first year driving for Hendrick Motorsports. As a result, he sits 27th in the points.
“With Kasey,” Jimmie Johnson said, “we all feel bad for him and (crew chief) Kenny (Francis) coming in and having the troubles they’ve had.”
“I spoke to Kasey a couple times after races where his luck just clearly went the other direction on him, and just pointed out that you sat on the pole. You’ve won every practice session. You’re in the top three to five in most practice sessions,” Johnson said.
Johnson acknowledged that Kahne has a lot of speed. Kahne and Francis both brought in some ideas that Johnson believes has helped the company, “so there’s a lot of credit that needs to go to Kasey and Kenny.”
Is Kahne as hard on himself in person as he is on Twitter? After the Fontana race he tweeted, “Pissed I ran bad. Happy my car is in one piece.”
“I think his reaction on Twitter and the things he has said is true,” Johnson responded to my question, “and he’s critical of himself and I’m happy he is.” Johnson continued, “You should never be happy with your performance even when you’re winning. You can do a better job, so I appreciate and respect that in him.”
Rick Hendrick said at the beginning of the season that he wants all four cars in the Chase, yet not all his boys are running well. Five weeks into the season, and two of the organization's four drivers are in the top 10 in points: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3rd) and Johnson (9th). Along with Kahne, Jeff Gordon is outside the top 10, currently in the 25th position.
With wrecks and unfinished races for the 5, 24 and 48 teams, it seems the organization may not reach that goal.
However, all four drivers have a positive attitude; there’s a lot of energy in their step, and as disappointed as they may be, they want to win. They want to turn this around - they believe they can be in the top 10 come season's end. A wrecked car will not wreck their spirits.
They won’t wreck each other to win a race, but they each want to get that 200th win for their boss, Mr. Hendrick.
“I don’t race my teammates that hard,” Kahne said. “I don’t think Jeff would wreck me to win this race, and I wouldn’t wreck him.”
“I can’t wait to win for Hendrick Motorsports,” Kahne said. “If it was the 200th that would be awesome to be a part of the 200th win.”
Martinsville is a great track for the team. Jeff Gordon has seven wins, Johnson has six, and Earnhardt and Kahne have finished as high as second.
“I’ve never won here,” Kahne said when asked what it would mean to him to win here. "I just want to win.”
Kahne won the pole for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500, it's his second pole of the season. Gordon is starting 9th, Earnhardt 14th and Johnson 22nd. Don’t let those numbers fool you - the boys may just end up in the front by the final lap of the race.
Genevieve is a freelance writer living on Lake Norman in North Carolina. When not writing about racing, she's exercising,running, reading, cooking healthy foods, and/or hanging out with her niece.