By admin | August 24, 2013
By Richard Allen
A couple of weeks ago in Watkins Glen, Kasey Kahne crashed out of the Sprint Cup race there after contact between Matt Kenseth and another car left him in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was the fourth time this season(the other three from Kyle Busch) that the Hendrick Motorsports driver had been wrecked as a result of the actions of a Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
Later that night, Kahne took to Twitter to say that he was going over to the JGR shop to get some answers. Most likely, that never happened. But Saturday night at the Bristol Motor Speedway provided Kahne with the opportunity to get some payback for a season’s worth of debt…and he failed to cash in.
During a late race caution period in the Irwin Tools Night Race at BMS, crew chief Kenny Francis called Kahne to pit road for new tires and a full tank of fuel. Meanwhile, Kenseth and other front runners stayed on track despite the fact that they were cutting it very close on fuel. Once the green flag waved again, Kahne quickly sliced through the field toward the front.
With less than ten laps to go, Kahne’s Chevrolet closed to the rear bumper of Kenseth’s Toyota. The two cars ran in each other’s tire tracks right against the outside wall as the laps wound down with everyone in the facility anticipating what might happen as the checkered flag loomed.
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But in the end, Kahne never made the aggressive move many expected. He made efforts to pass Kenseth cleanly, and even got alongside on a couple of occasions. However, Kenseth had the preferred line and held on for the win.
Seemingly, if ever a driver had a right to move another driver out of the way, it was on this occasion. But Kahne chose not to do so.
When asked by ESPN pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch if he had other options on the last lap, Kahne replied that, “You always have other options. I had a really good car. We were fast. Kenny made a great call to get tires and not have to worry about fuel. I just didn’t get it done. I had the better car and the guys did an awesome job in the pits. I feel bad that I didn’t win. We needed this, it could have been big for us but we ended up second. It’s still a good points day.”
Punch pressed on with the line of questioning by pointing out that TV booth commentators Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were urging Kahne to be more aggressive in the closing laps.
“If I was trying to get there I would’ve probably wrecked both of us,” Kahne declared. ”I just tried to pass him as clean as I could and race him as hard as I could. I thought I had him at one point, I had a good run and tried to slide across but he just kept position. We were rubbing all the way off turn four. I just didn’t get it done, and I’m upset with myself for not figuring out how to win tonight because I clearly had the better car at the end of the race.”
The bigger issue for Kahne might not simply be the loss of one race, but rather, the fact that he owed payback and didn’t deliver when he had a perfect chance. He runs the risk of sending the message that he can be pushed around and he won’t push back.
There’s no doubt Kasey Kahne is one of the most talented drivers in NASCAR. But there have been questions in the past about his toughness. He was clearly upset after Saturday’s race ended, and for good reason.
Call it classy or clean racing if you want, but the other drivers in the garage area are more likely to call it weakness. And there are plenty of people in that garage looking to take advantage of whatever weakness they can find.
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