With first top five of the season, Kahne hoping it's a sign of things to come

During the course of Hendrick Motorsports’ history, there’s always been that one team that wasn’t nearly as strong as the other cars in the stable.

With first top five of the season, Kahne hoping it's a sign of things to come
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

For a long time, that team was the No. 25 — and whoever was behind the wheel. For the last four seasons, Kasey Kahne has been that guy. 

But after posting his first top-five finish in 14 races and his second top 10 in three weeks, Kahne is hoping the No. 5 team has turned the corner. 

“It was really encouraging,” Kahne said. “The performance of the team all weekend long, practice, we didn't get all of our practice in, but we got a lot of it in, then qualifying, didn't get that.  But I felt like we would have been great there, too.

“It was a strong weekend for our team. Communications side with Keith (crew chief Rodden) and the engineers, just kind of what we worked on, the direction we went was really solid all weekend, similar to Bristol. We just finished it off today.”

Running strong from green flag to checkered flag

After starting eighth, Kahne ran in the top 10 all day despite tagging the wall in the early stages of the race. Although Kahne wasn’t nearly has strong as either of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of winner Carl Edwards or runner-up Kyle Busch, for the first time this season, he was in the ballpark. On the final pit stop, Kahne lined up seventh and was able to pass Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick to finish fourth. 

“We had a great restart there at the end to get a couple spots and get a top five,” Kahne said.  “That was good. We haven't had a lot of these in the last year, two years. So it was nice to run up front, nice to be competitive, battle with the Gibbs cars a little bit, Jimmie a lot, Kevin some.

“I could always see those guys, so it was nice to see the fastest cars in this particular race.”

With the new car NASCAR introduced this season being more suited to his driving style, Kahne expected to start the season strong. Still, running consistently has been a struggle for Kahne and the No. 5 crew.

“You have two, three months off,” Kahne said. “During those months off, you prepare and think you're the best driver, think your team's the best. You go into each season saying, I'm excited for this year, I'm excited 'cause we're going to be good, it's going to be a strong year.

“Then we started and we weren't. We weren't and we were. There were some bright spots at times, but not nearly what we wanted. Yeah, I was a little surprised there. I knew at that point we really needed to go to work or I needed to find something different to do because it was getting as discouraging as it could be. It's nice to have three solid weekends and we'll keep building from here.”

Kahne still a long way from Victory Lane

Kahne hasn’t won since Atlanta in September of 2014. This season, he has yet to lead a lap. Kahne understands it’s difficult to blame his team or the organization when his three teammates run in the top 10 on a consistent basis. Jimmie Johnson has already won two races this season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been close. And although Chase Elliott is a rookie, with the No. 24 team behind him, he’s 11th in points — three positions ahead of Kahne in the standings — and has out-raced him in six of nine events this year. 

Kahne feels the key to long-term success is better working relationship among his teammates.

“I would say it kind of starts at the beginning of the weekend, starts early in the week as kind of our preparation, what we're looking at to do to the car,” Kahne said. “It just starts with the attitudes of everybody, from myself to the team, how we all appreciate each other, work together, know that each particular person is there for a reason and are really good at what each one of us do. 

“I think it's more being together, being a group, a solid team. As we do that, we've been getting better each week.  To me that started three, four weeks ago. Each week it seems to get better from the previous week. We're going to keep heading in that direction, I know that, and hopefully the performance stays the same.”

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