By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To say that 2018 has been a struggle for Kasey Kahne and Leavine Family Racing would be an understatement, but on Saturday night at Daytona, the No. 95 team nearly made all of their troubles disappear as they were in the running for their first win all the way down the stretch, eventually ending the race with a fourth-place finish.
“It was great,” said Kahne. “We had a strong car. The Thorne Chevrolet was really strong. Figured it out in the second stage how strong it was and it was up to me and communication with my spotter to win the race or not. It was exciting. We did everything we could. Didn’t get the win, but we came pretty close.
“I felt really good about it. It was awesome for the team because of everything they put into it and they deserve to run up front. Today we had a car capable. At Sonoma, we had a car capable of running top-10, so two of the last three has been really good. We just have to keep building on that. We’re slowly getting where we want to be, but it takes time.”
Saturday night’s finish marks Kahne’s best finish of the season and his best result since winning last year’s Brickyard 400 in his final season with Hendrick Motorsports.
Rolling off in 28th place, Kahne bided his time through the first stage and avoided the mayhem of the second to finish the second stage in fourth-place with a car that was still intact, while most of the field had damage of some sort.
With the knowledge that he had a car that was capable of running with the leaders, Kahne made it a reality on lap 138 as he took the lead away from Martin Truex, Jr. and held onto the top spot for 17 laps.
Lining up on the penultimate restart, Kahne elected to take the top lane with fellow Chevrolet driver Alex Bowman pushing him, leaving Truex and Harvick together on the bottom. Ultimately, that decision would cost him the lead, but that would not deter him from trying to get it back over the final laps of the race.
Kahne avoided the big crash in the tri-oval during the first overtime attempt, climbing his way back up to third place for the final restart.
A final push to try and grab the lead away from Erik Jones and Truex would prove to be unfruitful for Kahne, but the end result was still their best finish of the year. A welcome result after a season of struggles.
“I knew I had a shot,” Kahne added. “I knew I had a car capable. Once we got going in the second stage I knew my car was capable of winning it was just a matter of where I put it and the places I put it in and we ended up fourth, so not good enough.”