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Cup Notes: More Pain for Kahne

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 27 2010

Kasey Kahne had a good half day at Loudon Sunday. He had a dominating car until the engine broke. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Loudon, N.H. – Kasey Kahne did his best to shrug off his latest setback in his effort to make the 12-man field for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver was the class of the field in the first half of Sunday’s Lenox 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading a race-high 110 laps before an engine problem sent his Ford toward the back of the field.

Eventually, the engine – one of only two of the new Ford FR9 engines in the field – went up in smoke and left Kahne 36th in the 43-car field.

“When you put (the new engines) on the track, they’re not supposed to break,’’ Kahne said. “One of the old engines could have broke. It’s probably just something small inside (the engine) that happened. But, when we brought it here, we had no idea it would break. It’s ready. It’s prepared.’’

And the engine failure was not Kahne’s only aggravation on Sunday.

At one point, leading the race and with Kyle Busch close on his heels, Kahne got into a battle with RPM teammate Paul Menard and fellow Ford driver Matt Kenseth as he attempted to lap them. Busch used the slower traffic to get past into the lead.

“I don’t care what Kenseth’s doing. He’s racing hard and trying to stay on the lead lap,’’ Kahne said. “Menard raced me super hard and then Kyle Busch gets to him and he lets him go in the first corner that he gets to him. One corner and he lets Kyle go, so that’s what made me mad.

“Paul just needs to do the same with each guy and not just with me for some reason.’’

The bad day may have killed Kahne’s chances of making the Chase. He slipped from 18th to 20th in the standings and now trails 12th-place Carl Edwards by 286 points with nine races to go before the start of the 10-race stock car postseason.<

Roush frustration: The four-team Roush Fenway Racing team had its worst race in a difficult season.

Greg Biffle, who finished 16th, was the only one of the Roush drivers to finish on the lead lap. Matt Kenseth was 17th, David Ragan 20th and Carl Edwards 25th. None of them were ever a factor in the race.

“I don’t know what it is, but we’ll just keep working at it,’’ Biffle said. “It’s pretty frustrating. In the middle part of the race it was like somebody flipped a switch because we just got super, super tight and I don’t know what the heck it was. We just did the best we could and that was 16th.’’

Ragan was just as frustrated.

“I felt at times during the race we were a little better but, even at our best, we were a top-15 car,’’ Ragan said. “As a company, we’ve still got to keep working on it.’’<

Tight race: The so-called Race for the Chase is tighter than ever, with the drivers from Mark Martin 11th to Clint Bowyer in 15th separated by only 43 points.

With only the top 12 able to compete for the championship in the final 10 races, Martin, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman and Bowyer, all have a solid chance to make it into the playoffs.

Joey Logano, who finished ninth Sunday, is 99 points out of 12th, while Jamie McMurray and Martin Truex Jr., 17th and 18th in the standings, would appear to be real long shots.

Leading man: Kevin Harvick had another solid day Sunday, finishing a quiet fifth. But the Richard Childress Racing driver lost another 35 points off his series lead to race winner Jimmie Johnson.

Harvick, who has led the points for the last eight races, goes to Daytona for next Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 with a 105-point edge.

“You definitely want to be solid for the next few weeks and then you can start doing some things that you normally wouldn’t do and trying things that you normally wouldn’t try,’’ Harvick said. “And even right now we can be a little bit more aggressive because you do have a little bit of a cushion.

“But we want to win a couple of races or a race or two before the Chase starts and, hopefully, hit our winning streaks in the last 10 (races). That’s when it all counts.’’

The drivers who made the Chase are seeded by number of wins during the regular season, with 10 points for each victory. Harvick has one win this season, while both Johnson and Denny Hamlin have five.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 27 2010
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