NASCAR Richmond Notebook: Kasey Kahne Has Backup Plan

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Kasey Kahne (Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kasey Kahne (Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

RICHMOND, Va. – For Kasey Kahne, and others who share the same scenario, Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (7:30 p.m. on NBCSN) may be the most difficult last-chance qualifier ever conceived in stock car racing.

Kahne entered the race in a win-or-else situation, with the “or else” aspect being absence from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this year.

It took 11th-hour heroics last year at Atlanta for Kahne to make the Chase, but the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet is realistic enough to know he needs a backup plan that doesn’t include participation in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff.

Chase or not, Kahne hopes he and his team can use the final 10 races wisely.

“It’s to try to finish strong and be more prepared when next season starts, no matter what car we run or what team we have,” Kahne said. “We just want to be better off than what we were this year.

“We ran pretty good at the start of this year and then didn’t run very well for a while, and that’s kind of why we’re 17th or 19th or wherever we are in points (actually 17th). There’s been a bit of bad luck, which you have each season, and then it’s just been a struggle to finish top five or top 10. And that’s what we need to get a lot better at, if we want to contend for wins and ultimately make it into the Chase and a championship down the road.”


Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Friday night he wouldn’t be averse to running four cars at JR Motorsports next year. If the organization can raise sufficient capital to do so.

Earnhardt’s remarks followed a strong showing from JRM in the Virginia529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway, where Chase Elliott broke a 39-race drought with his first victory of the season.

Joining Elliott in the top 10 were JRM drivers Regan Smith, who ran sixth, and Josh Berry, who finished seventh after running as high as second in his only NASCAR XFINITY start of the season so far.

Elliott is stepping into the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to be vacated by Jeff Gordon at the end of the year, leaving the 2016 JRM driver lineup currently unsettled. But Earnhardt hopes to re-sign Smith, pending sufficient funding, and continue to field the “all-star car” that has featured multiple drivers this year, including Earnhardt himself and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick.

Another full-time car for a driver not yet announced also is in the offing.

Earnhardt hopes Berry’s performance on Friday night might attract the interest of potential partners for the late model stock car star.

“We plan to run three cars next year, and if the right opportunity came along, we’d run four,” Earnhardt said. “We feel like we’re a healthy company, and if we have the funding to do it, we know how to do it in a budget, and we’d be excited to race Josh if we could get that opportunity.”

Earnhardt said the 24-year-old Tennessee driver did everything the team asked him to do and proved he could run at a high level in the right equipment.

“Hopefully, tonight he’s turned some heads, and maybe the phone will start ringing next week with some people that are interested in getting behind his career and helping him realize his potential,” Earnhardt said. “He’s like a lot of these guys that are just one sponsorship away from being able to make a living as a race car driver in the XFINITY Series and moving on to the (Sprint) Cup Series eventually one day.

“He’s got the talent and the ability, and I’m telling you, he’s just one domino away. And if that domino falls, and we can pair him up and get the funding, then I think it’s something that will work, and he would be able to make it work.”

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