Early on in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, it looked like it was going to be just an average day for Kasey Kahne getting into the outside wall.
With grit, determination and a good handling racecar, he was able to rebound for his first top-five finish since Kansas last October.
Kahne, who has struggled since joining HMS in 2012, has just one victory in the past two-and-a-half seasons. In 2014 and 2015 combined he had just six top five finishes combined. However, with a stellar performance at one of his better tracks, he believes that the team may have finally turned the corner.
“It was a strong weekend for our team,” Kahne said post-race. “Communications side with Keith [Rodden, crew chief] and the engineers, just kind of what we worked on, the direction we went was really solid all weekend, similar to Bristol. We just finished it off today.”
The No. 5 team’s best finish in 2016 prior to Richmond was eighth in Texas two weeks ago. At Las Vegas in early March the crew had a 10th-place finish, which is Kahne’s third best finish this season.
There is reason for optimism within the Hendrick camp. Kahne spent more laps in the top five at Richmond than he had in the first eight events combined this season. With an average finish of 16.3, that would be good enough to make the Chase, as he currently sits 14th in the standings, 18 points above the cutoff.
Coming off a season in which he failed to make the Chase for the first time since 2011, Kahne is confident in where the team is going.
“I think it's more being together, being a group, a solid team,” he said. “As we do that, we've been getting better each week. To me that started three, four weeks ago. Each week it seems to get better from the previous week. We're going to keep heading in that direction, I know that, and hopefully the performance stays the same.”