Photo: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

Kasey Kahne’s Championship Hopes — Possibly Future — on the Line in Richmond

By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor

Let’s be honest, Kasey Kahne has not had the greatest season of his 13-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. Through 25 races, Kahne sits 16th in points and is currently on the outside of the Chase looking in with one race remaining until the Chase begins. Luckily for the veteran driver, his lackluster first 25 races can be erased with one great night at Richmond International Raceway.

Kahne has a decent past at Richmond. In fact, Kahne’s first-ever Sprint Cup Series win came at the action track back in 2005. For that reason the track will always be special to Kahne, but there’s just something about the 3/4-mile track that Kahne has always enjoyed.

“I’ve always liked Richmond. I have been able to win here in the past and I look forward to the challenge.,” Kahne said in a Team Chevy release. “I think you can bring a lot back from the day race, but the bigger thing is the cars have changed since then. Even though it will be the same package, the teams have built better cars. We were really competitive in the first race, and I think we’ll bring back a similar setup, but a better car, and work from there in practice.”

In the day race at this track earlier in the season Kahne notched his season-best finish of fourth. It is also one of just two races where Kahne has finished inside the top-five in 2016.

Kahne moved to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 with the intent of competing for championships. Now on the back end of his fifth season with the team, Kahne has just five wins since moving to the super-team and he has only finished better than 12th in points with the team once, when he ended 2012 fourth in the standings.

Since moving to HMS Kahne is already on his second crew chief and he is closing in on his third consecutive season without a Chase berth.

Rumors have been swirling that if Kahne doesn’t pick up his performance, and quick, he may be ousted by young up-and-coming driver William Byron, who Hendrick Motorsports signed to it’s stable less than a month ago. Kahne, who has 17 victories on his Sprint Cup Series resume, understands the urgency to turn his slump around.

After Byron was signed to HMS, Kahne told USA Today Sports, “If I haven’t performed by 2018, I need to leave.”

Kahne continued by saying, “It’s pretty simple. So that will have nothing to do with William Byron or anyone else. If I haven’t performed by then, it’s time to go do something different.”

An appearance at one of Kahne’s best statistical tracks (aside from Charlotte or Atlanta) could be just the cure for the driver to snap a 72-race winless drought. Expect Kahne to give us his best effort of the 2016 season Saturday night under the lights in the Federated Auto Parts 400, and just maybe he can find his way to victory lane at this track like he did back in 2005.

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Toby Christie is a contributing writer for Motorsports Tribune. He has been watching stock cars turn left since 1993, and has covered NASCAR as an accredited media member since 2007. Toby is a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA). Additionally, Toby is a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan, sub-par guitarist and he is pretty good around a mini-golf course.

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