Conventional wisdom holds that a Chase driver can have one “bad” race and still win the Sprint Cup championship.
Kasey Kahne hopes he’s recorded his one down day.
Kahne was on the way to a probable top-five finish Sunday at Dover International Speedway when a late-race vibration and a pit problem cost him dearly, sending him to a 15th-place finish.
After finishes of third and fifth in the first two Chase races, Kahne was only 15 points out of first. Now, entering Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, he’s tied for fifth with Tony Stewart, 32 points behind.
“I kind of feel like we’ve used up ours (bad race),” Kahne said Tuesday. “We want to have an opportunity, so we can’t have another one if we feel like we have a shot to contend for the championship when it gets down to the line.
“When the guys at the top are running good each week, it’s hard to make up points on them if you need them.”
Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer lead Stewart and Kahne in the standings.
“I feel like our team has done a really nice job all season long in coming back and charging back as well as we could,” said Kahne, who rallied to score a wild-card entry into the Chase. “So we still have a lot left in the Chase. A bad race by each of those guys, and we’re right back in it. We have a shot. We’re definitely not out of it. But we can’t give up any more points at this stage of it. We need to run well from here on out.”
Talladega always is a tossup of sorts, and Sunday’s race could produce big point swings.
“I don't root for anyone to wreck or any of that stuff, but it's definitely a track that has the most possibilities of getting in the wrong spot at the wrong time and having no control of the situation,” Kahne said. “So, yeah, it could take out all 12 of us in the Chase or maybe just two of them or however it works. But Talladega is that one wild card that nobody really knows, and we won't have a clue until after it's all over.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.