Kasey Kahne and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) rolled the dice on pit strategy but came up short during the TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway.
The team’s weekend did not start out the way they planned, as Kahne couldn’t quite get a handle on the No. 95 Camaro ZL1 during practice and went on to qualify 26th for Sunday’s 500-mile race in Phoenix.
As the race began, Kahne reported that the car was tight-handling overall. The first caution fell on lap 26, which turned into the competition caution that was originally planned for lap 30.
Kahne pitted during the caution, but the team received a penalty during the stop. Kahne was forced to restart at the tail end of the field but was able to quickly able to work his way back into the Top-25 where he would finish the first stage.
Kahne began the second stage from 23rd. Crew Chief, Travis Mack, told the team that although handling was an issue, they were running Top-15 and Top-10 lap times during the long runs.
On lap 121, Kahne reported that a wire caught fire in his No. 95 Camaro ZL1, but quickly dissipated. Kahne was lapped by the leaders just before a caution came out on lap 122, giving him the Lucky Dog spot and putting him back on the lead lap.
As another caution came out with just four laps remaining in the stage, Mack made the call to stay out in order to try and earn stage points. The gamble paid off, as Kahne finished ninth in the second stage, earning LFR two playoff points.
Kahne started the final stage 25th after pitting under caution. He reported that his No. 95 Camaro ZL1 drove better as he raced, but that he had no lateral grip when he took off.
The last caution came out on lap 190, where Kahne pitted for four tires and fuel. The remainder of the race stayed green, and Kahne made it as high as third place while the green flag pit stops cycled through.
The team took a gamble and stayed out as long as possible, hoping for a caution, but it did not fall. Kahne made his last pit stop with 24 laps remaining, ultimately finishing 24th.
“I was on the loose side the whole race,” said Kahne. “So, that made it a little tough to do anything on the restarts. Usually, we would get taken advantage of, but it would actually take off alright – it just kind of stalled out.”
Next up for Kahne and LFR is Auto Club Speedway where they look to finish out the West Coast Swing strong.