No longer frustrated, Kahne on Texas pole


FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Kasey Kahne spent most of last year frustrated, trying to figure out why things weren’t going as well as they did during his rookie season.

So, after a good start this season, how did Kahne feel after starting fifth and finishing 35th last week? Not as bad as expected.

“I wasn’t even mad,” Kahne said.

Kahne completed only 374 laps because of engine problems at Martinsville, the Nextel Cup’s shortest track. But it was the first time in six races he finished outside the top 11 and dropped him only two spots to fourth in the standings.

“I’ve been happy all year with the way things have gone. We’ve had momentum all year, even with last week,” Kahne said. “We had a car that was capable of probably running in the top three. Things like that happen, and it was nobody’s fault, and it’s been fixed since then.”

Kahne already has made an impressive comeback, putting Evernham’s No. 9 Dodge on the pole for the Samsung/RadioShack 500 today at Texas Motor Speedway.

The last two times Kahne started on the pole, he got his only Cup victories. His victory last year in Richmond was about the only highlight of his sophomore season. He won from the pole last month at Atlanta, a 1-mile track similar to Texas.

No one has won from the pole in Texas, which is marking its 10th season of racing. And there never has been a repeat winner at the track.

“I don’t know why a different winner has won here every year,” said Elliott Sadler, the 2004 winner. “It’s just whoever is hot at the right time.”

Kahne, who turns 26 on Monday, has had some fast times in Texas. He qualified third as a rookie in 2004 and again last spring.

But his finishes at Texas were indicative of the differences in his first two Cup seasons.

After leading 148 laps and finishing second in 2004, Kahne had engine problems in the Cup race last April and finished 35th a day after winning a Busch race there. He was 42nd last November.

When Kahne took over full-time in the No. 9 for Bill Elliott in 2004, he finished in the top five 13 times – with three second-place finishes in a six-race period – and was 13th in the standings.

Then came the sophomore slump.

While Kahne got his first victory last year, that was one of only five top-five finishes. He didn’t finish nine races, two more DNFs than his rookie season, and had half as many poles (two).

“I was frustrated most of the year, trying to figure out how to get through that stuff and go fast and not have the problems we had,” Kahne said. “By the end of the year, I just wanted to leave, take two weeks off and forget about racing for a little while.

“That’s what I did, and ever since then, we’ve been focusing on how to go fast,” he said. “I think it worked out well.”

Cup rookie J.J. Yeley qualified second Friday and 1998 Texas winner Mark Martin was third. Jimmie Johnson, the points leader by 59 over Martin, starts 16th.

All 10 past TMS Cup winners will run Sunday. That includes Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, the Roush Racing teammates of Martin, starting on the third row.

Five Roush drivers have won at Texas. They team swept last year when Biffle won in April and Carl Edwards won the first fall Cup race there.

Martin has five top-10 finishes in Texas, and was second to Biffle last fall.

Since a multicar crash in the first turn of the first lap during the inaugural race at Texas in 1997, the track has undergone several changes and improvements. Most drivers now like the high-banked track.

“You can run real fast here. Over the years, the groove has widened out,” said Kenseth.

, the 2002 Texas winner. “Last year, you saw Carl win the race running way up on top.”