The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Kasey Kahne by Michael Mehedin -- Tuesday December 17, 2013

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Kasey Kahne

Michael Mehedin · Tuesday December 17, 2013


2013 Rides
Cup: No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
NNS: No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet

2013 Primary Sponsors
Cup: Farmers Insurance, Quaker State Oil,, Time Warner Cable, Great Clips
NNS: Great Clips

2013 Owners
Cup: Rick Hendrick
NNS: Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

2013 Crew Chiefs
Cup: Kenny Francis
NNS: Mike Bumgarner

Stats: 47 combined Cup and Nationwide Series starts.
In Cup: 36 races, 2 wins, 11 top 5s, 14 top 10s, 3 DNFs, 12th in driver points.
In NNS: 11 races, 0 wins, 3 top 5s, 7 top 10s.

Best Finish
Cup: 1st – Bristol (March) and Pocono (August).
NNS: 2nd – Charlotte (May).

Average Finish:
Cup: 16.17
NNS: 11.18

Kasey Kahne

2013 Team Ranking: 4 of 4. Kasey started the 2013 season as a favorite to compete for the championship, more so than teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. After finishing a career-high fourth in points in 2012, it seemed all Kasey needed to do was get a better start to the 2013 season. He did just that, but a second-half slump and poor showing throughout the Chase relegated Kasey to 12th in points and fourth place amongst the Hendrick Motorsports drivers.

High Point: With only six races to the Chase, teams returned to Pocono for the second and final time in the 2013 season. Kasey, with his one win, was in a tight battle with a number of drivers to either stay in the top 10 in points or be one of the two wild card entries based on number of wins. When the green flag came out with two laps to go Kasey was running second to teammate Jeff Gordon. Kasey understood the importance of a win that day and was not going to be denied. In one of more impressive moves of the season, Kasey drove into turn 1 on the outside just further enough to clear Gordon and pull away for his second victory of the season. That victory would turn out to be exactly what Kasey needed to secure a spot in the Chase.

Low Point: It’s hard to pinpoint a specific race as a low point for Kahne. Rather, I would select the entire Chase as his lowest collective performance of the season. In the 10 Chase races, Kasey had no wins and only three top 5 finishes. Accidents in New Hampshire, Talladega and Martinsville along with mechanical issues in Dover kept the team from capturing positive momentum. Although Kahne led the most laps in Charlotte, he finished second to Keselowski after being passed last in the race.

Summary: A lot was expected of Kahne in his sophomore season with Hendrick Motorsports. This was the first time in a long time that he entered a new season without a major team, sponsor, car make and/or personnel change. Now with some stability, Kahne was a favorite to battle for the championship.

Kahne started the season strong, much better than 2012. In the first 13 races, Kasey earned his first win of the season (Bristol) along with seven top 10 finishes, including three second place finishes. Of Kasey’s six second place finishes, three of them were to Matt Kenseth. And this was not the only tie to Joe Gibbs Racing throughout the season. Kyle Busch was the culprit for accidents in the Daytona 500, at Talladega and Darlington which collected Kasey. Matt Kenseth continued the JGR trend by spinning Kahne at Watkins Glen. The last incident seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, as Kasey took to Twitter saying that he is “Headed to Joe Gibbs racing to talk to whoever will come out front #that’s4.” One week later in Bristol Kenseth and Kahne were battling for the lead in the closing laps and everyone was on the edge of their seat waiting for retaliation … that never came. Kasey raced Kenseth clean and settled for another second place finish and sparking arguments whether Kasey had the drive and tenacity needed to battle for a championship.

With his two wins, Kasey qualified for the Chase as the first Wild Card. However, he and his team struggled mightily the final 10 races and Kasey finished 12th in points.

Off-Track News: Kasey enters his third season with Hendrick Motorsports, Farmers Insurance and crew chief Kenny Francis. It was announced in November that long-time engineer Keith Rodden would be leaving the team to crew chief for Jamie McMurray. Keith was an integral piece of Kasey’s success, and it’ll be interesting to see how Mr. Hendrick fills that position.

2014 Outlook: For the past two seasons, the expectations have been high for Kasey Kahne. Both years he was on a short list to battle for the championship. Although he has all of the pieces of the puzzle, Kasey has yet to fit them all together for that one perfect season. 2014 will bring multiple wins and a Chase berth once again for Kahne, in my opinion. He learned a lot this year and will utilize that knowledge for a more successful 2014 season.

2013 Grade: B. Even with two wins and a spot in the Chase, Kasey’s lackluster performance the final 10 races left much to be desired for he, his team and his fans. You can not deny Kasey’s talent, however. He drives for Hendrick Motorsports for a reason. It’s only a matter of time until luck, performance and talent combine to create a championship season for Kasey Kahne.

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