By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — There are very few active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers with a better track record than Kasey Kahne.
Kahne was in Anderson Wednesday morning for the grand opening of Ollie's Bargain Outlet and he was hopeful a trip to a good track could help him get some traction in the Chase.
Kahne had an impressive season leading up to these final 10 races. He qualified for the Chase with a pair of wins and eight finishes in the top five. "It has been a bit of a struggle," said Kahne of the first four races to decide the championship. "It's a big deal to make the Chase. It's what you work for the whole season. Hopefully we can run well these final six races."
So as the affable driver signed autographs and posed for pictures with about 250 fans Wednesday, he often had a smile on his face. Some of that was for the benefit of those who had waited in line to meet him. But part might also have been him thinking about the trip to Charlotte for the Bank of America 500, to be run on Saturday night.
"It is a place I've always run well," said Kahne. "Hopefully we can have a good finish. We want to move up a few spots in the standings." Normally just 12 drivers are in the Chase, but this year there are 13 thanks to a last-minute decision by NASCAR to include Jeff Gordon as the aftermath of penalties handed down after the final regular-season race.
"I'm glad that's all over," said Kahne. "NASCAR did what it thought was necessary to deal with that situation. It was a mess. Hopefully it's all behind us now."
Unfortunately right now there's nobody behind Kahne among the Chase drivers as he is 13th, 83 points behind the leader Matt Kenseth.
Those final 10 races do have a different atmosphere than those run earlier in the season. "It feels different," said Kahne. "There's more pressure to do well. There's more people watching those (Chase) drivers."
Just making the Chase is a big bonus to a driver's career and to the sponsors who pay to have their names associated with that driver.
"We have a lot of good partners and we obviously want to do well for them," said Kahne. "We haven't run well in the Chase yet and we've gotten behind. Now we are just going to focus on these last six races. Maybe we can win a couple of them."