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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kasey Kahne may be Hendrick team's best driver in 2013

Kasey Kahne, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS celebrates winning the Food City 500 Sunday, March 17, 2013, at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Tim Parks for Chevrolet)


Nobody is dumb enough to count Jimmie Johnson out of anything.

That just doesn't make sense considering his track record of winning and contending for titles.

But after four races in 2013, it's not out of the realm of seriousness to say that Kasey Kahne is possibly the best chance Rick Hendrick has to win the Cup this season.

Hendrick pursued Kahne for a long time, and wanted him so bad that he hired him before a spot was even available in the Hendrick team roster. Hendrick had to loan Kahne out to Red Bull for a year before getting Kahne into one of his rides, and now in the second year at Hendrick Kahne is starting to show his full potential at the superteam.

Kahne is a hell of a racecar driver. He showed that back in 2006 when he won 6 races while driving for Ray Evernham's team, then he got mired on a bunch of bad teams and with bad equipment and drama.

Now, he's in an optimum situation. Kahne is driving for the best overall team in NASCAR (Hendrick is the only team fielding four cars, all of which are legitimate title contenders), and if he doesn't have mechanical failures he can be listed as a legitimate contender to win every week -- just like his teammate and five-time champ Jimmie Johnson.
He had a spirited battle on track with many drivers at Bristol and ultimately got by Brad Keselowski for the win. Kahne will no doubt win many more races this year. He has the car and the capability to do it, and this is why Rick Hendrick hired him; he knew what Kahne could do.

It helps that he's kept the same crew chief for a long time, Kenny Francis, similar to what Chad Knaus and Jimmie have been abe to do. This builds camaraderie and knowledge of what each other prefer in a racecar, another factor that benefits Kahne's chances of winning each week.
Bad luck could strike of course, but I would predict great things in 2013 for Kahne, most definitely a Chase berth and possibly a run for the title if things continue to go his way.

Now that he's getting comfortable at Hendrick, all of his competitors should watch out for Kasey Kahne. They'll likely be seeing a lot of his rear bumper in the near future.

Best race of the year, but where were the fans? 
With much of the racing in 2013 being subpar, it was nice to see some solid racing at Bristol. Whether it was the Gen 6 car finally behaving or Bristol's reworking that did the trick, fans got a real treat with close racing up front all day -- something that's essential if the sport wants to retain fans at the track and viewers at home.

But if you looked at the stands, it was a sad site. I remember when Bristol had a years-long waiting list. But Sunday the stands at Bristol had huge empty spaces, something I never thought I'd see. Ironically, those people who chose not to go missed a good show -- but I don't blame them. Too often, it's not worth the money these days.

Here's hoping the on-track show continues to improve, so that come August those stands at Bristol are a little bit fuller.

Follow Matt Myftiu on Twitter @MattMyftiu.


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