Physically whipped and mentally spent after 500 long, grueling miles around Darlington Raceway, Kasey Kahne shouldered the blame for his fourth-place finish in Saturday night’s Showtime Southern 500.
“I’m a little disappointed with fourth, disappointed with myself,” he said.
Driver No. 4 was hard on himself because, while leading, he tagged the outside wall on lap 92 and earned one of those infamous Darlington Stripes. The right side absorbed a stiff shot, and it was just bad enough to make the pole-winning car not turn quite as efficiently.
Still, with the help of speedy pit stops by the No. 4 crew, Kahne led six times for a race-high 124 laps after starting from the pole for the fourth time at the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval. He led for the final time with 11 laps to go before a two-tire stop three laps later dropped him to fifth on the restart.
Race winner Regan Smith, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart all stayed out, and Kahne was left to fight with those three as well as Carl Edwards in the closing laps and lone attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
“I hit the wall once, and I hit it really hard so I screwed up the right side and we had to work on it after that.”
“I hit the wall once, and I hit it really hard so I screwed up the right side and we had to work on it after that,” Kahne, covered in soot and rubber pellets, said after his second consecutive top five and fifth top 10 of the season.
“The guys did a good job of keeping me up front with pit stops and kept working on the car to make it as good as we could. The Red Bull team was awesome. The car was great. Qualifying first helped a ton tonight — having that first pit stall. I think we were a top-two car, probably, minus the strategy there at the end. That was pretty good for as hard as it hit.”
Teammate Brian Vickers finished 34th after enduring one of the most unusual incidents in recent NASCAR memory.
On lap 230, Vickers’ No. 83 Red Bull Toyota connected with the No. 6 of David Ragan, who turned sideways. Then, in what can only be described as strange, the nose of the No. 6 ripped of the entire left side of Vickers’ car. Many described it like a can opener, and powder-blue energy-absorbing foam flew everywhere.
“The No. 6 got loose and got into the wall. We were behind him, going under, and he checked up quickly and I got into him,” Vickers said. “When he spun, it took the whole left side of the car off. So crazy. I’ve never seen that happen before. We just can’t catch a break. The guys once again did a great job getting me back out on the track so quickly.”
Kahne climbed three spots in the driver standings to 15th — 17 points out of 10th. Vickers dropped three positions to 29th.
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