Kasey Kahne wants to win, and starting from the pole for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 is how he plans on getting it done. For the second time this year Kahne finds himself leading the field to the green, this time with a speed of 96.128 mph, and hopes for a better ending to the race this time than he has had yet. Moving into Hendrick equipment this year should’ve meant more consistency, better finishes, and better points position, but lady luck has had other plans for Kahne so far. Wrecking out early, engine issues, and just plain bad luck have kept Kahne down in 27th in points despite his excellent starts so far this season. Since moving to Hendrick’s Kahne has an average starting position of 7.6 but has only averaged 20.6 position on his finishes.
Martinsville is a different beast than other tracks on the circuit. A short track which has the nickname of the Paperclip due to the unique track layout. The .526 mile track is the shortest in NASCAR and has a reputation for giving drivers a rough ride, and for shortening tempers. So how does Kahne feel about Martinsville?
“It’s a tough track to qualify and a tough track to race — always has been one of my tougher ones over the years,” said Kahne, who has only led for a total of 19 laps at the famed short track in his career. “I’m glad we can start up front, have a great pit stall — that No. 1 stall — I think that helps throughout the whole race with track position.”
“Hopefully, we’ll have a solid day [on Sunday]. That’s what we need to do. We’ve had great Fridays and Saturdays but just haven’t put together a Sunday yet.”
Kevin Harvick will start second on the grid after qualifying only .08 mph slower with a speed of 97.048 mph. Can “The Closer” get it done from here? Harvick won here last spring and would love to repeat that feat but there are 42 other drivers. Making his 400th career start since taking over the ride after the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt Sr., Harvick feels that his team has matured and that things are finally coming together again in the RCR stables.
“I feel like it’s taken seven or eight years to get through the Earnhardt transition,” Harvick said. “There’s a lot of things you look back on now and that effect took a lot of time. Then as the grandkids — Austin and Ty — came, you [can] really see that enthusiasm level come back that I first saw in Richard in 1999 and 2000 as we led into the start of my career at RCR.”
4 time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin will start third followed by Clint Bowyer who ran the exact same time, but will start fourth based on current owner points. Ryan Newman starts 5th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr edged current series Champion Tony Stewart by one spot on the starting grid and will start 14th and Stewart 15th.
The Allstar race will take on a new format once again as NASCAR changes it up once again.
The format will have the drivers competing in 4 separate segments of 20 laps each and a final 10 lap shootout. The winner of each of the first 4 segments will be advanced to the front for the restart before the final 10 lap segment, rewarding the sinners of the 4 segments with track position right when they need it most.
Steve Addington, Crew Chief for the #14 of Tony Stewart, talks about how this will change the strategy for the event this time around.
“Those 20-lap segments are going to be a lot like the 10-lap segment,” said Steve Addington. “Everybody’s going to be wanting to get up front. I think it’s going to be really important to win one of those segments, because coming down pit road, that opens it up to a lot.”
Former All-Star Race winner Kasey Kahne said it would be tough for a driver on old tires to hold off another with four tires for the entirety of the final 10-lap segment. But the potential scenarios seem endless.
“If four guys don’t get anything, and then you restart sixth with tires, you might be able to win from there,” said Kahne, who won the event in 2008. “It will be interesting how it all works out. It will be a crew chief’s game late in the race.”
“I think the 20-lap segments are going to mean a lot,” Kahne said. “You want to be in that top four coming to pit road for the final 10, because 10 laps goes by quick here. You’ve got to be in those front four spots if you want to win the race in 10 laps, I think.”