Kahne Climbs Toward the Top

K.Kahne

Kahne has set his sights on more wins after his breakthrough victory Sunday in Charlotte. (Getty Images)

Kasey Kahne’s first Sprint Cup Series win at Hendrick Motorsports has provided a tremendous boost of confidence to his team.

After struggling for the opening weeks of the season with a variety of mechanical problems and bad luck, Kahne and the No. 5 Chevrolet team have turned things around in a huge way.  His current string of top-10 finishes grew to six with Sunday’s checkered flag in the Coca-Cola 600.

That was the final shot in the arm Kahne says he needed to kick his roll into an even higher gear.

“I've won a race for Hendrick Motorsports and we need to figure out how to win more," Kahne said.  "It gives me confidence and some momentum.  It gives our whole team a lot of confidence and momentum, and we feel good about the direction we're headed in."

The Hendrick team is definitely strong right now with Kahne’s Charlotte win coming on the heels of teammate Jimmie Johnson’s Southern 500 triumph at Darlington Raceway and his follow-up victory in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

After watching Johnson give team owner Rick Hendrick career Sprint Cup win No. 200 at Darlington, Kahne had even more motivation to perform at a higher level.

“Just to listen to their stories and think about how much history is involved in Hendrick Motorsports, and what Mr. Hendrick's done for racing and how much he's been a part of racing, definitely got me excited and kept me wanting it pretty bad," Kahne said.  "I wanted to be one of those drivers who would want to race for him.”

Vital to Kahne’s success has been his continued relationship and chemistry with crew chief Kenny Francis.  They had previously worked together at Richard Petty Motorsports and Red Bull Racing before their move to Hendrick.

Kahne tipped his cap to Francis helping the team persevere through the tough times that started the 2012 season.

“Kenny's helped me through everything we went through in past years.  We've done it together,” Kahne said.  “He's been a big part of that, figuring out how to make our cars go fast, as we've had a lot of change.  The best part about it is how everybody at Hendrick Motorsports welcomed us and wanted to work with us ... and how badly we wanted to work with them."

Kahne is hoping most of the early-season frustration is behind him.  His recent surge and the Charlotte win has lifted him to 15th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings.  He has an eye on winning more races and making the Chase to run for a title.

In order to achieve those goals, Kahne has no problem with putting more pressure on himself to perform - given what he calls the best opportunity he’s had for success in his Sprint Cup career.

“Earlier in the year, I felt like 'You're going somewhere, coming into a spot where you know you have the best of everything and everybody out there knows that 5-car is as good as any car on the racetrack every single weekend,' and now I'm driving it,” Kahne said.  “There's some extra pressure there, but it's just what I do.  I like pressure.  I like putting it on myself and just being able to perform.  All I want to do is perform and work at winning races.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kasey Kahne

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