With 25 laps to go, Kasey Kahne drove past Juan Pablo Montoya to move into second place in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol. He set his sights on leader Matt Kenseth and was looking for his third win of the season.
All season long, Kahne has been battling with and finishing second to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth. While Kenseth has been aggressive with Kahne, we haven’t really seen him fight back. Saturday night, the Hendrick Motorsports driver had a golden opportunity to fight back and missed it.
Instead of spinning Kenseth in turn four, all Kahne could do was rub against Kenseth’s bumper as he raced ahead for the win. While racing clean will make you friends, nobody would have thought twice had Kahne given him the boot for the victory.
Earlier this season, Kahne told Jeff Gluck of USA Today that he is “annoyed” and “upset” with JGR drivers. Four times this year has Kahne been wrecked by a member of JGR with Matt Kenseth being the most recent offender when he wrecked Kahne at Watkins Glen. Saturday night, Kahne was poised for some payback.
With 15 laps to go at Bristol, Kahne was hot on Kenseth’s heels. Both drivers had strong cars, but Kahne’s was visibly faster. He motored past Montoya and ran right up to the rear bumper of his JGR rival. The stage was set and the night was right for Kahne to make a statement.
After driving it into turn one hard with two laps to go and not being able to pull off the pass, it became quite clear that Kahne was going to have to use force. Coming out of turn two on the final lap, Kahne appeared to give Kenseth a bit of a bump and it seemed that he was going to pull the bump-and-run tactic in turns three and four.
Coming through the middle of the turn, Kahne drove hard to the back bumper of the 20-machine. Instead of slamming into the back of him, Kahne just gave Kenseth a little nudge and it wasn’t enough as his JGR foe won his fifth race of the season.
In a post-race interview, Kahne did say that if he had hit Matt Kenseth he would have just wrecked them both. While that may be true, that’s a risk that Kahne has to be willing to take. After all the headache that the JGR team has given him this season, Kahne needs to be willing to take that risk.
Kahne is a driver that has been making a huge resurgence in NASCAR and Saturday night’s race only proved that he is back. At one point, the five-team at Hendrick Motorsports was the organization’s doormat. Lately, it’s been one of the frontrunners.
In the big picture, finishing second isn’t all that bad for Kasey Kahne. By all accounts, it’s a great finish. After being in perfect position to pick up a win over their rivals and then coming up short, however, this race has to leave the team with a bitter taste in their mouths.
The rest of the season should be interesting to watch. We could see a totally different Kasey Kahne as he could be racing with a chip on his shoulder. The only question now is how much is he willing to risk to pick up a win?