For the second straight season, Kasey Kahne has gotten off to a rocky and inconsistent start. Luckily for the 35-year-old driver, the Tricky Triangle hasn’t been so tricky throughout his career.
Pocono International Raceway is one of only three tracks where Kahne has found victory lane on multiple occasions, winning the spring race in 2008 and then the fall race in 2013. He has also won four times at Charlotte and three times at Atlanta. He has five top-5s and eight top-10s in 22 career starts at Pocono.
Kahne isn’t alone when it comes to success at Pocono, either. His Hendrick Motorsports teammates also know where victory lane is at the track, as Hendrick has won the last five races at Pocono. Along with Kahne’s win in 2013, Jeff Gordon won the fall race in 2012, Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag in the spring race of 2013 and Dale Earnhardt Jr swept the two races last season.
After a season in which he had just three top-5s and 11 top-10s and his only win was the next-to-last race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup to clinch his spot, Kahne is winless and has just two top-5s and 5 top-10s in the first 13 races of 2015. This comes after Kahne had back-to-back seasons with two wins and combined for 23 top-5s and 33 top-10s in 2012 and 2013.
Part of the problem for Kahne is that sometimes it seems as if he is the forgotten man in the Hendrick Motorsports garage. After all, there is 4-time Sprint Cup Series champion Gordon running in his final season as a full-time driver, 6-time Sprint Cup Series champion Johnson who has a series-best four wins this season and is trying to tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most championships and then there is Earnhardt Jr who is NASCAR’s most popular driver. Not to mention that Hendrick announced earlier this season that Chase Elliott would be taking over the No.24 for Gordon starting in 2016.
And while Kahne has just a single win in the last two seasons, Gordon has four, Earnhardt Jr has five and Johnson has eight. And all Elliott has done is win three races in the Xfinity Series races and win the series championship last season. He has also while finished in the top-10 in 36 of 45 Xfinity Series races and made his Sprint Cup Series debut earlier this year.
One good thing for Kahne is that he doesn’t have to worry about racing for his job. Last November, he agreed to a three-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports that will keep him with the team through 2018. At the time, some people were surprised that Hendrick would give Kahne the extension, knowing that Elliott would soon need a Sprint Cup Series ride. But when Gordon announced his retirement, everything fell in place perfectly.
Maybe Kahne can finally start putting together some momentum this week, as he enters the Axalta ‘We Paint Winners’ 400 at Pocono coming off his season-best tying finish of 4th at Dover a week ago. Unfortunately, Kahne has not been able to string together consecutive top-10 finishes yet this season and hasn’t done so in his last 28 races. In fact, his current run of a 12th-place finish at Talladega and the 4th-place finish at Dover is his best streak in 2015.
It might get a little tricky, but a win this week might just be enough to turn Kahne’s season around.