Despite Heavy Damage on Lap 2, Kahne Fights on to Finish 15th at Bristol
Bristol Motor Speedway is referred to as “The Last Great Colosseum” on the NASCAR circuit because of the impressive track where the fans feel as though they are seated on top of the track, and it’s a battle for drivers to survive unscathed. Things at Bristol can happen in the blink of an eye due to the high-banked short track, and one little mistake can cause a slew of chain reactions that can end one’s day early. Kasey Kahne and his No. 95 Thorne team closed out Friday’s final practice session in 15th fairly content with the overall handling of their Camaro ZL1. Kahne earned the 26th starting position in Friday’s qualifying session, and when Saturday night’s start rolled off, Kahne was caught up in a multi-car pileup that happened at the end of lap 2. Despite the heavy damage to the Thorne Chevy, the team showed speed and fought back to finish 15th despite a challenging night at Bristol.
· Saturday night’s 500-lap event at Bristol took the green flag at 6:49 p.m. EST, and as the field roared to life in “Thunder Valley,” the action on track got started early after contact between several cars found a multi-car pileup occur on the frontstretch at the end of lap 2. Kahne radioed in to his team that the No. 95 Chevy had been hit from behind and felt as though he had a flat left-rear tire. Crew Chief Jon Leonard and the team prepared to make repairs to the Thorne Camaro ZL1 under the caution since the left-side of the car had taken a beating from all the contact.
· Kahne lined up in 33rd for the restart as the race returned to green to start lap 14. Despite the substantial damage, the No. 95 machine was able to improve its positioning as the run went on, and Kahne was in 22nd when the competition caution came out following lap 60. Under the yellow flag, Kahne told Leonard “it got a little tighter as I went, but I need more to lean on in the rear of the car in order to go faster.” The team pitted for four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment for the Thorne Chevy, and Kahne restarted in 21st.
· Stage 1 ended following lap 125, and Kahne told his team that his No. 95 Chevy “was pretty decent there at the end” after he ended the stage in 19th. The team pitted for another four-tire stop with adjustments, and Stage 2 took the green flag to start lap 137. Over another long green-flag run, Kahne was able to steadily improve his positioning on the track and moved his way up to 14th before a caution came out at lap 199. Four tires and fuel were taken for the Thorne Chevy on the team’s lap 200 stop, and when then race returned to green, Kahne was able to take over 13th before the end of Stage 2 came at lap 250.
· The team continued to work on the heavy body damage from the lap 2 contact on every stop. When the team hit pit road for service on lap 254, the jack got stuck under the car due to the mangled body damage that skewed the jack’s clearance which the team had been fighting since the crash. Kahne got tagged with a penalty for removing pit equipment from pit road and was forced to pit a second time under the caution. The penalty found him fall back into 21st.
· Trapped back in the pack, the team knew it was going to be challenging to make up the lost track positioning, but they soldiered on. By lap 340, the Thorne Chevy had improved to 18th, but as Stage 3 continued, Kahne was eventually lapped by the race leaders. A late-race caution came out at lap 481 and Kahne was in the “lucky dog” position which meant that the team was able to get back on the lead lap and could finally fight to gain positions in the closing laps. Without many laps left in the race when it went back to green on lap 488, Kahne was able to run 15th in his Thorne Chevy, and that’s where he crossed the line to end Saturday’s action-packed race.
· Kurt Busch claimed the victory at Bristol Saturday night while Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five finishers in “Thunder Valley.” Kahne’s 15th-place finish is his second top-15 of the season, and he improved to 27th in the driver point standings.
Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
TRACK: Bristol Motor Speedway
DRIVER: Kasey Kahne
CAR: No. 95 Thorne Camaro ZL1
POINTS POSITION: 27th