By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Kasey Kahne earned his first top five of the season at Richmond International Raceway. This was also Kahne’s first top five finish since the 2015 Kansas Chase race, 14 races ago. This is only the fourth top five for Kahne since he won at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day Weekend in 2014.
In the weekend’s two practice sessions, Kahne was eighth and second fastest. The move from night to day, combined with the 2016 aero-package seemed to be a perfect match for the Hendrick Motorsports driver at Richmond as he easily managed his tires on the slick racetrack.
Kahne started the day from the eighth position after qualifying was rained out and the starting grid for the Toyota Owners 400 was set by the speeds from the first practice. Kahne was never lower than ninth all day long as he slid back the one position for the first 40 laps.
Kahne slowly picked his way forward as the long green flag run continued. Kahne finally broke into the top five around lap 80. Kahne bounced between seventh and fifth on the running order throughout the rest of the race. Kahne was able to keep his car out of trouble throughout the race, bringing the Mountain Dew Pitch Black Chevrolet SS home in the fourth position.
Kahne talked about how his day went and what it means for his team after the race.
“That was really encouraging, the performance of the team all weekend long. We didn’t get all of practice in, but we got a lot of it in. Qualifying, we didn’t get that, but I felt like we would have been great there too. It was a strong weekend for our team. The communication side with Keith, and the engineers, what we worked on, and the direction we went was solid. It was similar to Bristol, but we just finished it off today.
“We had a strong car, the Mountain Dew Chervolet. And we had a great restart there at the end where we gained a couple spots, and got a top five. That was good; we haven’t had a lot of these in the past year two years. It was nice to run up front, nice to be competitive with the Gibbs cars a little bit, Jimmie a lot, Kevin some. I could always see those guys. It was nice to see the fastest cars in a particular race.”
Kahne also talked about what was different about Richmond compared to other races earlier this season.
“I would say that it starts at the beginning of the weekend. It starts early in the week, it’s our preparation, what we’re looking at due to the car, and it just starts attitudes from everybody. It just starts from myself, to the team, appreciate each other and work, and we know that each particular person is there for a reason. I think it’s just being together, a solid team, as we do that we’re getting better each week. That started three or four weeks ago. Each week seems to get better from the previous week. We are going to keep heading in that direction and hopefully the performance stays the same.”
Kahne and the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 team will look to keep improving as the series moves on to Talladega Superspeedway, where anything can happen.
Image: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR