In desperate need of a victory, Kasey Kahne instead had to settle for an 11th-place finish Saturday night.
Driver No. 4 kept his Chase hopes alive — barely — by persevering through 500 laps under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway. He had the daunting task of starting 25th on a high-speed short track and eventually fell a lap down near the halfway point. But Kahne became the beneficiary of the free pass under the race’s fifth yellow flag.
Back on the lead lap with 130 laps to go, Kahne restarted 17th. He stood fast in that position until the final caution period, when the No. 4 crew gained him a few positions in the pits. Kahne restarted 14th with 80 laps to go and climbed to 11th at the checkered flag, falling just short of catching Marcos Ambrose for a top-10 finish.
“Hard fought night for the 4. Pit crew was bad ass tonight! Thanks,” Kahne posted on his Twitter page.
Kahne improved to 15th in the Sprint Cup driver standings, but he sits sixth in the Chase wild card race. In between Kahne and the Chase are Brad Keselowski (three wins), Denny Hamlin (one win) and Paul Menard (one win). He also must overcome winless Clint Bowyer and AJ Allmendinger in the final two races before the Chase begins Sept. 18 at Chicago.
Those two races come at Sunday at Atlanta and Sept. 10 at Richmond. Kahne has won twice at Atlanta and once at Richmond, so it’s not over yet.
"We head to Atlanta next week, which is one of my favorite tracks so looking forward to that."
“We worked on the balance of the car all evening,” Kahne said. “Luckily, we got the lucky dog and were able to work our way up to 11th at the finish. The finish moved us up two spots in the points, which is great with two races left to get in the Chase. We head to Atlanta next week, which is one of my favorite tracks so looking forward to that.”
Brian Vickers started alongside his teammate in 26th and endured much of the same — hanging onto the lead lap until lap 227 when the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota lost a lap. For there, the Night Race became a battle for the free pass. He got it once and then lost it again before finishing 21st.
“We struggled with a loose race car all night and had no drive off, which made it hard to keep the throttle down,” Vickers said. “We had a decent car tonight, but needed some track position.”
Vickers moved to 27th in the standings, but is still 104 points out of 20th.
Follow Red Bull Racing Team on Twitter: @RedBullNASCAR.