The Hendrick Motorsports Lone Wolf
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Kasey Kahne takes service on his car in Sunday's Pocono 400. Kahne finished 42nd, his second DNF of 2014.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
14 races into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Hendrick Motorsports is sitting pretty.
In the new win-and-you’re-in playoff format, Rick Hendrick is all but guaranteed to have three of his drivers in the Chase come mid-September. The lone wolf on the outside looking in, Kasey Kahne, has yet to win a race this season and currently sits 21st in points.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. started things early for Hendrick winning the opening race of the season, the Daytona 500, and winning this week at Pocono. After a consistently solid season, Jeff Gordon won in Kansas and Jimmie Johnson followed that up with back-to-back wins of his own.
Pocono was another early exit for Kahne as he hit the wall and was then clobbered from behind by the No. 99 of Carl Edwards. Kahne was very vocal about his displeasure with Kyle Busch in the No. 18 who was right in front of him at the time of the wreck.
“He knew if he didn’t clear me there that I would pass him back because I just had,” Kahne said of Busch sliding up in front of him in turn 1.
The slide job caused Kahne to hit the wall, Edwards unable to get his car slowed and hit Kahne, who rode his car the length of the shortened straight away before hitting the wall a second time. Kahne was checked at the infield care center and released.
With only one top-five finish so far this season, reports surfaced out of the Hendrick camp that they may try allowing Kahne to drive other Hendrick team cars during practice sessions to see if he can discover anything about his own car. Due to time and weather constraints earlier this season, this has not yet happened.
This is not the first time Hendrick has made unusual calls to assist a driver in his building. In 2010, with Jimmie Johnson battling for a championship, Hendrick made an unusual but legal swap in the last race of the year. Johnsons pit crew had battled inconsistency issues in the races leading up to the finale. Jeff Gordon’s crew however was clicking and putting down fast stops. Hendrick swapped the seven men crews, sending Gordon’s crew to Johnsons pit stall and Johnson’s crew to Gordon’s stall. Jimmie would go on to win the title that year.
With this season already being half way to the Chase, Kahne needs to find a way to win, and fast. Having all four Hendrick cars in the Chase would certainly give them an advantage from a team aspect despite the chase having an every man for him self feel to it. Look for Kahne’s Hendrick teammates to help out the No. 5 team as much as possible in the upcoming races to lock him into the Chase, and ensure all four teams make the Chase for a third straight year.