Kahne Over His Slump

In just two weeks, Kasey Kahne has made people forget about his "sophomore slump" last season and has begun to display the talent that propelled him to win the 2004 Rookie of the Year award.

He followed up an impressive 11th-place finish at the Daytona 500 by wheeling his Dodge Charger to a fourth-place run at California Speedway over the weekend. The outcome helped vindicate the Charger, which many drivers inside the Dodge camp criticized prior to the season as inferior at intermediate tracks like California.

"We had a good finish in Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger. We'll take it and go on to Las Vegas. We have more work to do on the Dodge Charger. This car handled identical to the one we had here last year, so we know we're not where we want to be with the Charger. We're making progress and will continue to make it better."

The finish wasn't just the result of car performance alone. The No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge team was on its "A" game throughout the day, allowing the third-year driver to gain multiple positions in the pits.

Through all of the efforts Kahne scored his best finish since second place in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard last August. It was also the first top-10 finish for his team since the last California event 14 races ago.

"We got up there about halfway through and kept working on it from there. A couple of good cars fell out and we got a top five out of it. It was a good effort. The guys did a good job in the pits all day. We were way off at the start of the race. Two or three cars were a lot better than we were, and other than that it was close. It feels good to finally get a good finish. I wish we could have won, but we had a top five and that's pretty good right now."

With this early season surge of momentum, the team will now work during the off weekend on preparations for Las Vegas, where Kahne has an average finish of 20th. That includes a second-place run in his first visit and a finish of 38th last year.

"We usually run pretty decent at California Speedway. We'll work on some more things and try to make it more comfortable to drive. In two weeks we're heading to Las Vegas. These are real temperamental cars, so we'll just have to keep working on the Dodge Charger."

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