By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Entering Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, winning was the only thing on Kasey Kahne’s mind. After 25 races, Kahne entered the race outside the Top 16 in points, without a win, and with only one more chance to qualify for the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Kahne’s hopes looked promising in Friday’s two practices, as he was fourth fastest in practice one, and 13th fastest in the second practice. Kahne ultimately qualified his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS seventh.
Saturday night, Kahne fought hard all race long. Kahne had to overcome an early pit road speeding penalty, and it seemed as if he would be stuck in the 20th position as a result of the infraction.
Just past lap 260, Kahne finally began moving forward, breaking into the top 15. 20 laps later Kahne cracked the top 10, and by lap 300, Kahne was third on track.
A caution with about 50 laps to go gave Kahne new life.
Kahne, who was one of a few teams that still had sticker tires, elected to pit and dropped back to the 24th position. On the ensuing restart, Kahne narrowly missed a melee as Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, among others piled-up in turn three.
As the race neared the end, Kahne began picking off his competitors one-by-one. He moved past Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, McMurray, and Kyle Busch. After passing Busch, Kahne found himself in the fourth position with less than 10 laps to go. However, time was running out as Denny Hamlin had nearly four seconds to spare on the Hendrick Motorsports driver.
As Hamlin neared the white flag, the caution waved when Regan Smith spun into the outside wall in turn four, sending the race into overtime. About half of the lead lap cars elected to pit, while Kahne, Martin Truex Jr., and others elected to stay on track.
On the restart, Kahne got stuck behind Truex as the inside lane surged forward. Entering turn one, Kahne found himself being swallowed up by those behind him. Kahne fought hard, holding off several with fresh tires.
However, the night was not to be for Kahne. Kahne crossed the line in the sixth position, but failed to qualify for the 2016 Chase. This was Kahne’s eighth top 10 of the season. This is also the second year in a row that Kahne has failed to earn a Chase berth in it’s current format.
After the race, Kahne was visibly disappointed and appeared spent.
“I tried. I wanted to, but Denny was fast, Truex was fast,” said Kahne. “Truex, I stayed with him on the restart, but the inside took off a little better. Yeah, I wanted to win, but Denny was a good bit better than we were. We got up there because of the right pit call, we had on tires at the right time, and we got by those guys. When they pitted they were too far behind us to get us back. It worked out, I think we were in fourth at best, but ended up sixth on the final restart. So it was a good effort by our Farmers Insurance team, but not good enough.”
Kahne will now look forward to next Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway where he now could play the role of spoiler.