By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
After scoring his first Daytona 500 Top 10 finish since 2015, Kasey Kahne looked to continue his strong performance in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race was historic as it was the 2,500th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
In the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, Kahne’s No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS was seventh fastest. Qualifying was a disappointment however, as Kahne could not muster a lap faster than 29th. In the final practice, Kahne’s Hendrick Motorsports crew once again helped him put his Chevrolet seventh on the speed charts.
At the drop of the green flag, Kahne immediately began to move forward. Kahne’s climb was slow as he took care of his Goodyear Eagle tires on the old, abrasive surface, the third oldest racing surface on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
By the end of the first stage, Kahne still had not cracked the Top 10, and did not gain any championship points, but he had improved his position. He, like the rest of the field, brought his car down pit road for service.
On the restart, Kahne was still mired in the middle of the field. He once again began to move forward, all the while taking care of his tires. At the same time, Kahne’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., faced his own tire issues as his right rear tire began to unwind. Earnhardt pitted as the race remained green.
When the second stage ended, Kahne was just on the outside of the Top 10. After pit stops, Kahne lined back up with the rest of the lead lap cars.
On the restart, Kahne moved forward, quietly broke into the Top 10. As the laps clicked off and green flag pit stops cycled through, Kahne held station. Even as his teammates, Jimmie Johnson and, later under caution Chase Elliott, were busted for speeding on pit road, Kahne was consistent on pit road.
The consistency eventually paid off as Kahne cracked the top five as the race came to the close. As Brad Keselowski took the checkered flag, Kahne crossed the line in fourth. This is the first top five of the 2017 season for Kahne, and the first time since 2008 that he has finished in the Top 10 in the first two races.
Kahne is now tied with Ryan Blaney for eighth in the championship points standings as both have 63 championship points, 27 behind points leader Kevin Harvick.
Kahne and Hendrick Motorsports team will now look ahead to Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where they hope their current success will continue and earn Kahne’s first win since the 2014 Atlanta race.