By admin | January 6, 2013
By Richard Allen
Throughout the month of January, I will be running a series on the 12 drivers I am predicting to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the 2013 NASCAR season. The first eleven articles will be placed in no particular order but the final piece written in the series will be on the driver I am selecting as the favorite to win this year’s championship. Half of these pieces will be placed on my own RacingWithRich.com site and half will be placed on BleacherReport.com. Please consider following along on both websites and adding your own thoughts in the “comments” sections below each piece.
Kasey Kahne came into the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season with high hopes. The Enumclaw, Washington native was about to embark on his much anticipated first season as a driver for the powerful Hendrick Motorsports organization and many considered him an instant contender for race wins and the series championship.
Instead, however, Kahne’s season got off to as bad of a start as could be imagined. In his first six races under the HMS banner, the driver managed a best finish of only 14th(Fontana) and scored four results outside the top-25. After the checkered flag flew in Martinsville, the No. 5 team and driver had dropped all the way to 31st in the Sprint Cup standings.
But as bad as his beginning with the new team had been, there had still been positive indicators for Kahne that revealed he and his team could be capable of much better things. In those first six races, he had shown enough strength to earn two poles(Phoenix and Martinsville). Obviously, the speed was there. It would simply be a matter of turning the luck around to get this driver’s season on the right track.
Over the course of the next two months following Martinsville, Kahne reeled off seven consecutive top-10 finishes. Among those improved results was a victory in the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend.
After adding a second win in Loudon, New Hampshire, Kahne would complete his recovery by earning a place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Ultimately, he finished the 2012 season placed 4th in the final standings. In all, he scored two wins, 12 top-5s and 19 top-10s. He also started from the pole in four Sprint Cup races.
In 2013, look for Kahne’s numbers to get even better. The newness has worn off and the No. 5 team should be primed to contend for race wins and a championship right out of the gate. The fact that he was able to put such a terrible start behind him and go on to record an excellent season over the course of the final 30 races indicates that the ability is in place here to accomplish great things.
“(This year) I feel good about where I’m at,” Kahne remarked in an interview for USAToday last year. “Hopefully next year is better than this year and (I) just keep progressing and learning more.’
“There’s a lot you don’t know until you’re a part of it,” he said of driving for Hendrick Motorsports. “The way Mr. H(Rick Hendrick)Â treats people, the way everybody loves being there and always put such an effort into always getting better and making the cars better, the way that all the drivers and crew chiefs communicate and act as a big four-car team.”
Kasey Kahne will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff in 2013. But, he is not my pick to win the big trophy.
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NASCAR 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup Contender: Kyle Busch http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1461466-nascar-2013-chase-for-the-sprint-cup-contender-kyle-busch
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