The record books state the Kasey Kahne’s turnaround came with a victory on Sunday night in Charlotte. Only he felt it earlier.
The first six races, after his move from Team Red Bull to Hendrick Motorsports, netted him a 31rst spot in the point’s standings. Not that his car was slow.
“I never really doubted myself,” Kahne said. “I was upset at some of the things that may have happened. I made a huge mistake at Phoenix, hit the wall there. But other than that, we were solid, we were fast. It was just a matter of getting past those five weeks and moving on and putting some solid races together.”
Then came a turning point in the driver’s mind.
“I sensed something good at Martinsville,” explained Kahne during a teleconference. “If you look at where I was running each race that I either crashed out or had problems, I was in the top 5 of all of them. So this whole season has been pretty decent minus us not finishing races."
Part of the reason was running better at the paper clip-shaped track.
“But for me to be running second and third at Martinsville, a track I struggled at over the years at times, I felt really good about that and good about where our car was and the adjustments we were making to that point in the race. Then we had our issue. And I actually went and sat on -- I didn't get down on that at all. It's racing. Things happen. I went and sat on Jeff Gordon's box for the rest of the race and cheered those three guys on as they battled for the win. And Dale Jr. was right in the mix, too, with Jimmie and Jeff. I felt really good at Martinsville and things happen, and we went on to Texas, got our first top-10 and we've been able to get some more since.”
With the new, simplified points system his win at Charlotte takes on added importance in making the Chase.
Yes, he feels more confident, but, if he can’t make up the missing points he’s focused on a wildcard just for insurance.
“To get that first win out of the way, and now I've won a race for Hendrick Motorsports, and we need to figure out how to win more,” Kahne said. “So it gives myself confidence and some momentum. I think it really gives our team, our whole team a lot of confidence and momentum, and we feel good about the direction that we're all headed in right now. I think HMS is really strong.”