Season Review: Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne finished fourth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. (Photo: Getty Images)

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2012 Race-by-Race Results

Kasey Kahne’s first season with Hendrick Motorsports got off to a frustrating start, but he was able to turn it around for a career-best fourth-place finish in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.

After finishing 14th in points in his 2011 campaign with Red Bull Racing, the 32-year-old couldn’t wait to get the 2012 season rolling with his new team.

“The Daytona test (in January) was the first time I started to feel like I was part of the team and it’s been really good,” said Kahne, who replaced the 53-year-old Mark Martin in the No.5 Chevrolet. “I have four years (with Hendrick Motorsports) that I know are going to be stable and competitive, with great people and a great team around me.” 

With the organization's victory total at 199, team owner Rick Hendrick was excited about his four-car lineup, with drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the new addition Kahne all looking to deliver the 200th victory.

“I can’t remember ever going into a year with four teams as strong as we have now,” Hendrick said.

The first two races didn’t go well for Kahne, however, as he was involved in a pair of crashes at Daytona International Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway, finishing 29th and 34th, respectively.

“It’s disappointing the way things have gone but we’re not getting down about it,” Kahne said. “There’s a lot of racing to go and we just need to do what we know we’re capable of doing and everything will be all right.” Kasey Kahne

The following week looked promising, as Kahne captured his third career Las Vegas Motor Speedway pole by setting a track record with a lap of 190.456 mph to earn the top spot. The award was the 23rd of his career and his first for HMS.

“It’s unreal how well (the Hendrick engines) run,” Kahne said. “It was a great effort by the team. It was great to win the pole.”

The glory would be short-lived, however, as he finished 19th in the race.

Three weeks later at Martinsville Speedway, Kahne started first again by turning a qualifying lap of 97.128 mph around the Virginia short track to earn the 180th pole position for HMS. But during the race, bad luck struck again when the No. 5 Chevrolet suffered a blown engine. Kahne ended the day with a season-worst 38th-place result, his sixth-straight finish outside of the top 10 to start the year.

The following week at Texas Motor Speedway, Kahne finally broke the streak with a seventh-place result. It was the first in a string of seven top-10 finishes for the driver.

Teammate Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports its 200th victory by winning at Darlington Raceway in May.

Kasey KahneKahne also reached Victory Lane in May, at Charlotte Motor Speedway, in his 300th Sprint Cup Series start.

In the longest event on the schedule, the Coca-Cola 600, Kahne led the final 44 laps en route to becoming the 16th different driver to win a Cup race for Hendrick.

“It feels really good," Kahne said. "It’s so special and awesome to drive for Rick and Linda Hendrick. For them to make me part of their company, this is unbelievable to be part of everything they do.”

Kahne’s hot streak came to a halt in June when he crashed in consecutive races at Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway, finishing 29th and 33rd, respectively. 

He would earn six top 10s in the following 11 races, including four top fives, to close out the regular season. Kahne was the runner-up at Kentucky Speedway and Pocono Raceway, but was second-to-none when he took the checkered flag at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for win number two on the season. Kasey Kahne

“To be able to win two races now and have a shot at the Chase, we're still definitely not in it, but we have a better shot now than we did," he said.

Kahne hung on and entered the 10-race playoffs as the first wild-card seed, 11th among the 12 contenders. With Jeff Gordon taking the second wild-card spot, all four of Hendrick’s drivers made it into the Chase.

Kahne picked up two more poles and recorded five top fives in 10 events, but it wasn’t enough to win the championship. He finished fourth in the final standings, 55 points behind champion Brad Keselowski.

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