Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; Coke Zero Sugar 400
TRACK: Daytona International Speedway
DRIVER: Kasey Kahne
CAR: No. 95 Thorne Camaro ZL1
POINTS POSITION: 269 total points for the season; currently 26th in the driver point standings
NASCAR returned to the historic high banks of Daytona International Speedway to celebrate the July 4th holiday for Saturday night racing under the lights. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams were slated to have two practices on Thursday, but rain showers in the area shortened on-track activity during final practice. Teams were able to qualify Saturday evening after another round of showers, and Kasey Kahne earned the 28th stating position with his No. 95 Thorne Chevy during the single-car qualifying session. After starting the race from deep in the pack, Kahne and the Thorne team were able to survive several large wrecks throughout the night in order to remain relatively unscathed. Kahne maneuvered his No. 95 machine to the front of the field, and led for a total of 17 laps, before ultimately earning his first top-five run of the season with a 4th-place finish.
Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 took the green flag at 7:47 p.m. EST as the field roared to life to start the 160-lap event. At Daytona, drivers find themselves constantly shuffled throughout the field during the course of the race based on which lanes have the momentum at the time as well as who works well drafting together. Oftentimes, even if teams have developed a strategy for drafting partners during the race, any slight contact can set up chain reactions at Daytona in a split second that can quickly end one’s day. Early in the race, Kahne told crew chief Jon Leonard that the Thorne Chevy had “too much wheel on entry and exit” of the corners. Leonard assured his driver that they’d get him tightened up on the team’s first stop of the night as they planned for adjustments.
Stage 1 ended following lap 40, and under the caution, Leonard called his driver in for service on the team’s lap 43 stop. Four tires, fuel, and chassis adjustments were made to the No. 95 Thorne Camaro ZL1, and Kahne lined up in 25th for the restart to begin lap 47. Kahne quickly moved into 16th before “The Big One” struck early on lap 53 which collected 20 cars in the process. With half the field sustaining damage to their race cars, Kahne was able to avoid detrimental damage as he and spotter Doug Campbell worked together to avoid the melee. Under the caution, Kahne came down pit road for four fresh tires and to allow his team to check over the No. 95 for any damage. The Thorne Chevy lined up in 12th for the restart to begin lap 63 before another caution came out on lap 66.
As cars continued to find themselves the victims of superspeedway racing circumstances, Kahne kept moving up on the leaderboard and cracked into the top-five on lap 72. Stage 2 concluded following lap 80 as Kahne ended the stage running in fourth. Leonard checked in with his driver to see if there were any adjustments that were needed, but Kahne told the team that the Thorne Chevy was “good as it was.” Kahne started Stage 3 in fourth, but over the run found himself dip back into 12th as he told his team that he had a loose-handling car at the time and had fewer strong cars to draft with at the time. Green-flag pit stops began to cycle through the field and Kahne hit pit road for right-side tires and fuel on lap 120.
A caution at lap 125 found Kahne in second at the time, and following a restart to begin lap 138, Kahne drove the Thorne Chevy out to the front of the field as the race leader. Kahne led for a total of 17 laps on Saturday night before losing the lead as cars weren’t helping to draft and everyone was jockeying for position late in the race. In what should have been the closing laps of the race, a multi-car incident on the tri-oval of the track brought out the red flag and forced the race to go into overtime. When the race returned to green to begin lap 162, Kahne was scored in sixth, but he quickly took over third before a caution came out again at lap 163. The race returned to green for its second overtime attempt to begin lap 167, and the Thorne Chevy was running in third at the time. Without help at the restart, Kahne did his best to fight for positioning in the closing laps of the race, and ultimately crossed the line in fourth to earn his first top-10 and top-5 finish of the season.
Erik Jones drove off with his first career series win Saturday night at Daytona while Martin Truex, Jr., A.J. Allmendinger, Kahne, and Chris Buescher rounded out the night’s top-five finishers.
2018 Season Summary:
Starts - 18
Wins - 0
Top 5’s - 1
Top 10’s - 1
Poles - 0