Kerr: Risk worth reward for Kahne
Posted June 13, 2012
We are continuing our roll with the No. 5 Chevrolet and Kasey Kahne. From a frustrating six-race skid early in the season to a long run of top-10s, including a win at Charlotte, this year has been one wild rollercoaster ride. I know I’ve written about it before, but with the great leadership from our crew chief, Kenny Francis, and all the support from Hendrick Motorsports employees at the shop, I believe this team is going to do great things this year.
A couple of weeks ago at Charlotte, we attained a huge goal of winning our first race of the season with the Quaker State Chevy. Victory Lane is one place you never take for granted. Sometimes you win several races in a short period and other times you spend weeks standing on the outside looking in. Winning at Charlotte was a huge momentum boost and doing it with a dominant team effort was the shot in the arm this team needed.
Pit stops during the Charlotte race went very well. During most pit stops the car needed only minor adjustments, but we did take time during one stop to add a “packer” to change the right front ride height. This helped Kahne through the corners when the track changed from day to night. Most crew chiefs won’t choose to add a packer during the race because it can add up to three seconds to a pit stop. Francis decided the risk was worth the reward, and he was right. It really helped the handling of our car in the corners by limiting the contact of the splitter with the race track. We entered pit lane for our last stop of the night with Denny Hamlin close in tow and managed to turn out our fastest pit stop of the night and send Kahne back on the track still in the lead. Kahne drove away from the competition and secured his first win for Hendrick Motorsports!
Next, we steamrolled into Dover, Del., in our Hendrickcars.com Chevy fresh off our Charlotte win and feeling great about our chances of another victory. We fell short of the win but brought home another top-10 finish while our teammate, Jimmie Johnson, put a Hendrick car in Victory Lane for the fourth week in a row. It wasn’t the win we were looking for but after the long day of numerous adjustments to the car, we were certainly satisfied with the effort and ready to head to Pocono Raceway.
In Pocono our team had an extended stay, arriving on Wednesday for a two day test session before Sunday’s race. The test helped the teams get acclimated to the newly paved surface at Pocono Raceway. The increased grip on the track and faster straightaway speeds made for a lot of brake heat and very hot wheels for us to handle. A few of my teammates were left nursing some blisters on their hands and fingers after the race.
With around forty laps-to-go Kahne restarted the race and made brief contact with another car. This caused a fender to rub the right front tire, which eventually went down and sent Kasey into the wall, ending our day and our string of top-10s. It’s a humbling way to end the day but knowing we had a fast car and a chance to bring home another good finish, I think we are more than capable of keeping our heads held high going to Michigan this week.