Tag: Kasey Kahne

5 Questions Going Into Watkins Glen

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finds it way to the final road race of the year one of the most exciting races in recent memory. The famed Watkins Glen International track has set the bar for excitement and drama, and this weekend figures to continue that when the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen is run.

With that excitement and the season closing in on the end of the regular season and start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, there are many questions coming into the weekend. Here are just five of them:

Who can pull off the win and get into the Chase?

Looking right off the bat you have to go to a driver who has wins, but is outside the top-30 in points. That’d be Kyle Busch, who’s a two time champion of this event. He needs to earn maximum points to get his way into the top-30 and into the Chase. More on him in a bit.

Two more intriguing names are Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. Stewart is the all-time wins leader at The Glen with five and is on the outside looking in on the Chase. Gordon is in via points for the time being, but with the second most wins (four) at the track has to be a favorite. I would like to say the fact it will be Gordon final race at the track will factor in, but he hasn’t performed that well when running at tracks the final time. In fact, looking at his Watkins Glen record he hasn’t finished better than 10th in his last seven races here.

While in the Chase by points right now, Kasey Kahne must make up for a 43rd place finish last weekend at Pocono. He has an uphill battle to do so since his best finish here has been a 12th, that coming last season. AJ Allmendinger will look to duplicate his victory last season that got him into the Chase. Currently 23rd in points, Watkins Glen represents the last bit of hope Allmendinger has at getting his second career win.

Can Kyle Busch’s Streak Continue?

It is hard to believe that Busch has only run 10 races so far this season and has come away with four wins, four top-5s, and five top-10 finishes. Had it not been for being just shy on fuel last weekend, we’d be talking about how he’s gone five for 10 with wins. Busch is a two-time Watkins Glen winner who had a streak of eight consecutive top-10 finishes snapped last year at the track. He will be strong and quite possibly dominate this weekend knowing he needs to go balls out to get the most points he can.

Will the “Road Course Ringers” have an impact on the race?

Had this been written about 20 years earlier, I would say yes. Now that it is 2015 and quality rides are just not there for “Ringers,” it is an resounding “no” to the question. The only “Ringers” entered this weekend at Boris Said and TJ Bell. Bell will be with Premium Motorsports’ #62 team that has had a terrible record of qualifying for races. He might be a “ringer,” but Bell hasn’t been in a Sprint Cup car since 2012, and that coupled with the car he is in, he’ll be lucky to make the race. What plays in his favor is that there are only 44 cars entered this weekend. For Said he gets to run for Go FAS Racing in the #32 Genesee Brewery Ford. Go FAS isn’t the worst team on the track each weekend, but it is far from being even average. For all his skill, it would be a victory for the team if Said finished in the top-20 this weekend.

Will it rain this weekend?

It seems like whenever the Sprint Cup Series comes to my native New York, rain always tries to ruin the party. In a nine year stretch qualifying was rained out five times. Five freakin’ times, and yes I’m still bitter about having to drive two hours to sit in the rain and not see anything done. This weekend has a slight chance of rain on Sunday, but I’m confident it will stay away. As of this posting Accuweather.com has it at a 40% chance and with this NASCAR will be coming with rain tires just in case. The rest of the weekend looks to be perfect at around 80 and sunny. It’s just Sunday has the possibility, like always.

With it being Jeff Gordon’s final race here, what is your favorite memory?

The easy answer is to go for any one of his four wins, including three straight from 1997-1999, but I’m going to go a different direction. It was the 2000 race and right at the beginning (right in front of where I was sitting) Gordon and Tony Stewart got together through the esses. Both cars continued the race, Stewart finished sixth and Gordon 23rd. After the race is where the real fireworks happened, cameras caught the exchange between the two drivers, which to me made me respect Gordon a bit more afterwards. I had pegged him as a cry baby kind of driver who never would stand up for himself. Here I was proved wrong as the video shows, Gordon was not back down to anyone including Stewart. My favorite part is when Gordon tells Stewart to “speed up and that won’t happen” and closes with “I owe you one now buddy.” Classic. I hope both drivers can get back to their competitive fiery ways on Sunday.

All Signs Point To 2015 As Do Or Die For Kahne

Today it was announced that Farmers Insurance would continue to sponsor the #5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports through the 2017. In the release it also says fans can help design the 2015 car Kasey Kahne will drive. What it lacks is language that indicate Kahne will be the driver for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Kahne’s deal with Hendrick Motorsports expires after the 2015 season and the team has Chase Elliott waiting in the wings for the next opening on the team. Many have thought that Jeff Gordon would be the first to leave because of his age and back problems. With Gordon leading the points and battling through the pains, it’s possible he might race for up to five more years.

For Kahne, he has struggled this season since losing engineer Keith Rodden to Chip Ganassi Racing. He and crew chief Kenny Francis have not been on the same page, pointing to a possible shake up in the pairing. If his struggles continue through this year and into next and Gordon keeps excelling, it might be time for Hendrick Motorsports to move on from Kahne.

It would be surprising to see them give up on a driver that they signed a full year before they could have him, but it might make better business sense. This, of course, can all go away if he can get some wins and get into the Chase this season and next.

A Few Crazy Scenarios For 2015 Free Agency In NASCAR

It’s only May, roughly three months into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and the jockeying for 2015 free agents might begin soon. Hendrick Motorsports announced that Nationwide Insurance would sponsor Dale Earnhardt, Jr. starting in 2015 on Friday and it’s a move that impacts two teams at minimum.

Nationwide Insurance will move from Roush Fenway Racing, where it has sponsored Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. the past two years. Stenhouse already has glaring holes in his sponsorship for 2014, this will just add to that issue for 2015 and beyond. Looking at RFR as a whole, both Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are unsigned beyond the 2014 season.

At Hendrick Motorsports, bringing in Nationwide brings up questions about what happens to Kasey Kahne. Currently he has Farmers Insurance as his sponsor, their contract expires at the close of 2014, and not many could picture two rival insurance companies sponsoring cars coming out of the same shop.

Having rivals sponsors has happened in the past, a good example is found at Richard Childress Racing where they are sponsored, as a team, by Lucas Oil. At the same time driver Paul Menard has Quaker State on his car and is featured from time to time because of the connections between his sponsor, Menards, and Quaker State. This was also the case when Kevin Harvick drove a Shell/Pennzoil sponsored car with Menard as a teammate.

If Farmers does not return and a replacement is not found, does Hendrick look elsewhere? It’s no secret that Kahne has not lived up to expectations so far this season and honestly, has come up short on what many thought to be a dream pairing with him and Hendrick Motorsports. His contract runs through 2015, but could he be bought out a year early to make room for another driver with sponsorship?

Could that other driver be Hendrick developmental driver Chase Elliott? He has backing from NAPA and has been shocking the Nationwide Series with two wins and a second place finish in the last three races. The plan seems to have Elliott replace Jeff Gordon when he retires, but there is no timeline to when that could be. I think it would be a mistake to bring Elliott up too fast, as in next season or even the year after, but if the sponsor requests it, it could happen. That’s what got Joey Logano into the Sprint Cup Series before he was ready. The Home Depot wanted him in the car and Joe Gibbs Racing obliged.

An off the wall scenario could find Carl Edwards in play for the Hendrick ride if they decide to go in another direction. Edwards made it known he wants to be top dog at Roush Fenway Racing, which played into Matt Kenseth’s departure, but the team hasn’t performed how many expected. They have improved this season, but sponsorship questions continue to linger year after year and Edwards might want to jump ship.

It might be too early to get a good feel on how this might all shake out, but it will keep things entertaining for the rest of the season. I can’t see Hendrick bailing on Kahne just yet, but if he continues to be so far behind his teammates it will lead to some serious discussions. For Edwards, I can’t believe Ford or Roush would let him walk to another team, especially a Chevrolet back team, so look for them to throw a lot of money at him to keep him locked up. All this excitement and we still have Talladega to look forward to this Sunday.

Column: Points, Pit Road, Stenhouse, and Kurt

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In this column I take a look at the points situation in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to let you know who will be battling for the title in Homestead. Pit road cost a bunch of teams on Sunday, why was that? Rookie Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. impressed many on Sunday and might have clinched the Rookie of the Year title. And finally could there be trouble brewing between two pseudo teammates who will be teammates for real next season?

With only four races remaining in the Chase there are five drivers still mathematically alive in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Jimmie Johnson leads the points by four over Matt Kenseth, 26 over Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, and Jeff Gordon continues to linger behind by 34 points. Arguments can be made that all five could be in it until the end, but my gut and odds are pointing towards Johnson and Kenseth being the two title contenders. Take Talladega out of it and the duo have been too consistent for anyone else to gain on them. After Martinsville I figure one to two more will drop out of range, and it’ll be a matter of time before it’s mathematically down to Johnson and Kenseth.

Pit road was brutal for a handful of drivers on Sunday. Kyle Busch missed his pit stall on his first stop, which resulted in coming back down pit road and going down a lap. He was the only driver who overcame the issue as he got a caution to get caught back up. Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, and Danica Patrick each got speeding penalties that ruined their days. Patrick was running in the top-10 most of the day before her gaffe on pit road. Without any cautions the second half of the race, until the last lap, no one could gain their lost lap back. Normally it might have been an issue, but with such a clean race, all three will have to think about what could have been.

While most might say Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s great run was trashed by perceived contact with Austin Dillon to end the race, I say that doesn’t matter. Replay shows Stenhosue didn’t touch Dillon’s Chevrolet, instead it was the air movement that got him loose. I was very impressed on how Stenhouse handled himself all day working from the back to the front and vice versa with the poise of a veteran. And he had the respect of the field too, because no one left him out to dry, everyone worked with him. It’ll be hard for him to not win Rookie of the Year this season and he’s building a lot of momentum to bring into 2014. I think our cars are getting better, and everybody at the shop is all hands on, just trying to make our season the best it can be here at the end.  We struggled throughout the first half of the season, definitely more than I thought we should or definitely more than we wanted to.  We’ve learned a lot.  I think we’re getting better as a team, and I’m learning a little bit more about what we need to do from practice to the race to make our car still fast throughout the race,” commented Stenhouse after the race.

With two laps to go, Kurt Busch decided he would step out of line on the high side and help out Kevin Harvick. The move proved disastrous because as soon as Busch moved low, Harvick moved back high. Busch was left to out to dry. Listening to his radio, Busch seemed shocked that Harvick did that, dropping some F bombs. For this season Harvick and Busch are pseudo teammates, with Furniture Row Racing (Busch) and Richard Childress Racing (Harvick) working together with a technical alliance. Next season both will be on the same team, Stewart-Haas Racing, and it’ll be interesting to see if this creates a rift to start the season. “Restrictor plate racing is all about being in the right place at the right time,” said Busch, who led twice for three laps. “We were in the right place for the majority of the race, but when it counted at the end we weren’t there. I tried to make something happen, but couldn’t get there.”

Side note, I was hoping Busch’s Wonder Bread car would have been painted more like Ricky Bobby’s from Talladega Nights, but you can’t win them all.

Chase Watch: Dover

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With the third race completed and Jimmie Johnson once again showing why he’s the master of being clutch, here’s a rundown of the Chase drivers and some analysis.

Matt Kenseth | 1st | 2149 points – Kenseth slipped late and couldn’t become the first to win three races to open a Chase. The seventh place finish would be good for most, but not Kenseth. He knows that as long as Johnson is out there, he has to perform.

Jimmie Johnson | 2nd | 2141 points (-8) – Johnson and crew announced to the NASCAR world, “we’re back!” He led 243 of 400 laps to get his fifth win of the season. Nothing short of dominance out of him and his team. I thought the call for two tires would bite him on the last pit stop, but his car seemed to excel with them.

Kyle Busch | 3rd | 2137 points (-12) – Busch gained points on Kenseth, but then ended up losing a position with Johnson leap frogging him. Busch led 30 laps and looked poised to finish in the top-3, but two tires were not his friend late in the going.

Kevin Harvick | 4th | 2110 points (-39) – Harvick had a quiet and sold sixth place finish. There were issues on pit road, but he was able to overcome them thanks to the final caution. He was able to jump from 6th to 4th in points.

Jeff Gordon | 5th | 2110 points (-39) – Gordon had the winning strategy by stretching his fuel, the problem was the late caution that came out. Instead he finished fourth, which is a good start as he was able to chip away a little bit in the standings.

Greg Biffle | 6th | 2108 points (-41) – Biffle turned in another Biffle like finish. You didn’t heard much about him, until ESPN talked about how a Roush Fenway Racing car won’t win the title, and he finished in the top-10 in ninth. Like Newman’s note a few below, story of Biffle’s season and career, good, but not good enough.

Ryan Newman | 7th | 210 points (-48) – It wasn’t flashy, but Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team just kept working and got an eight place finish out of it. The problem is the rest of the top-10 was Chase drivers as well. This might be story of Newman’s season, just not good enough.

Clint Bowyer | 8th | 2098 points (-51) – Bowyer was going to go for it like Gordon on fuel, but the last caution ruined that. Bowyer was quick at times, but relatively invisible out there. Bowyer did jump up two positions thanks Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards struggling.

Kurt Busch| 9th | 2094 points (-55) – Busch has been all but knocked out of the title talk. He finished 21st after a loose wheel caused him to pit and lose three laps. Then the caution came out and he was stuck those laps down. What Busch can control, they’re golden, but every time they pit it’s a rap shoot to whether he’ll lose time or not.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. | 10th | 2092 points (-57) – Earnhardt wishes he could mulligan his first Chase race. He finished second at Dover and was able to go from 11th to 10th in points. If he can keep rattling off top-5 finishes and hope for trouble with some of the others, Earnhardt might be back in it. I’m definitely feeling better about his chances than Kurt’s.

Carl Edwards | 11th | 2084 points (-65) – Edwards was the worst finishing Chase driver, coming home in the 35th place after a hub issue. That dropped him from 4th to 11th in the points and might be the death blow for Edwards’ championship hopes.

Joey Logano | 12th | 2083 points (-66) – Logano is saying the same thing as Earnhardt, “can I have Chicago back?” Logano was on point and was able to use a four tire stop on the last pit stop to get to third in the final run down.

Kasey Kahne | 13th | 2071 points (-78) – Kahne was one of three drivers in the Chase not to finish in the top-10. He came home in the 13th position, too little too late. After last week’s race he’s just trying to see how high he can get in the standings, the problem is it won’t be first.

Was Kahne Injured In New Hampshire Wreck?

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After Kasey Kahne gave what seemed to be one of the most bizarre and awkward interviews of the season, many began to speculate that Kahne might be have been injured in his lap 253 crash.

Representatives for Kahne indicated that he couldn’t hear ESPN’s Dr. Jerry Punch who was interviewing him after he was released from the infield care center. That seems very likely, but at the same time there were some fan accounts on Twitter, who were at the track, that said he looked to be in pain going to the ambulance.

Kahne even admitted a little on Twitter saying “Sore today but you’ll have that when you hit walls. Was racing hard with the 55 and lost it. Feel bad for my guys, will be ready for Dover.”

Watch the video and you be the judge.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmOaILLgKGw[/youtube]