Race 29 of 36: Dover International Speedway
Chase Contender Standings: 12th
RECAPPING THE RACE:
The race wasn’t even halfway completed, and Kasey Kahne found himself down two laps at Dover International Speedway.
A loose left-rear tire forced an unscheduled green-flag pit stop for the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, and it was a costly one.
“I just thought we were done, because -- just no way to make up -- didn't think we could make up two laps,” Hendrick Motorsports Owner Rick Hendrick acknowledged.
But Kahne never gave up.
“We have a really good car, guys,” the driver encouraged his team over the radio. “Let's pull it together. We can get back up there."
The car, to Kahne’s point, had the No. 5 team running as high as sixth before the tire problem left him teetering on the brink of missing the cut for the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
But the situation would get worse – when Kahne visited pit road again during green-flag racing at Lap 243 of 400, he fell behind by four laps.
Fortunately, fellow drivers making green-flag pit stops helped him make up two laps, and a subsequent caution flag allowed for a wave-around for Kahne. All of a sudden, he was just one lap behind.
“From that point on I knew we definitely had a shot,” Kahne said. “Just had to race hard, and I am glad we got to race hard.”
The final driver into the Contender Round of the Chase was still up in the air as the race wound down, but Kahne remained solidly in the hunt to be one of the 12 to advance.
“(Crew chief) Kenny (Francis) started telling me we were tied for 12th and this was with 30 (laps) to go,” Kahne recalled.
Eight laps later, Kahne passed a key competitor to move to 20th position and help further secure his place in the next round of the Chase.
But nothing was certain until the checkered flag waved.
“(Francis) would tell me we were one point in and then maybe two points in, and then he wasn’t positive,” Kahne said. “Then I started getting a little bit worried, so it was intense inside the car.”
But Kahne did make the cut, giving Hendrick Motorsports four drivers in the 12-car Contender Round.
“It was a roller-coaster of emotions,” Hendrick said. “At least we now get to go to zero and take all four to Kansas.”
After making the cut at Dover, Kahne and the No. 5 Farmers Insurance team advance to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- the Contender Round -- which starts this weekend at Kansas Speedway. All 12 Chase drivers competing in this round will race for the top-eight positions that will advance them to the next Eliminator Round. For the 12 drivers advancing to the Contender Round, their point totals will be reset to 3,000.