Originally created 06/12/04

Rookie Kahne wins pole at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. -- There were no crashes or bad luck for Kasey Kahne at Pocono Raceway.

Kahne put aside the disappointment of a wreck at Dover that cost him his first career victory and rebounded Friday to set a track record and claim the pole for the Pocono 500

Kahne, driving a Dodge for Evernham Motorsports, turned a lap of 172.553 mph for his fourth pole of the season, adding to top qualifying efforts at Las Vegas, Darlington and California. He becomes the first rookie to win the pole at Pocono. Ward Johnson in 1994 and Jimmie Johnson in 2002 started second in their rookie seasons.

"The car was perfect. I couldn't believe it," Kahne said. "We were a little bit off in practice, but the car was better, I drove a little better. It's a difficult track. It takes some time learn."

Kahne proved to be a quick learner. He took test laps at the track last week under the watchful eye of Bill Elliott, whom he replaced on owner Ray Evernham's team after last year.

Kahne got wide on Turn 1 and crashed. Nothing major, but it taught him a few lessons about navigating the 2 1/2 -mile triangular track.

His qualifying time broke Tony Stewart's record of 172.391 set in 2000, and he started to make up for a missed opportunity at Dover.

Kahne narrowly missed a 19-car pileup late in Sunday's race and was well on his way to the first victory of his Nextel Cup career at Dover International Speedway. Then, with oil all over the racetrack, he wrecked with only 18 laps remaining. He went from nearly winning his first race to nothing.

"I've spent a lot of time thinking about it," Kahne said. "I pretty much get over it during the day, but when I go to sleep it comes back in my mind. It wasn't fun. We did everything right that day. It was just circumstances. The team was let down because we didn't win, but we were happy because we were the best team there."

Kahne hopes this pole can propel him to the winner's circle.

"I feel like last weekend I was ready to win," Kahne said. "This weekend, I don't feel ready. We need more laps. Hopefully, by Sunday, I'll be ready to go for another win."

Kahne's four poles lead NASCAR.

Kahne has four top-10 finishes, but none in his last six races, leaving him low in the points standings. Kahne is 12th - 438 points behind leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. - but needs to get into the top 10 to compete for the title over the final 10 races.

Another rookie, Brian Vickers, was second at 172.308, and Joe Nemecheck was third in 172.183.

It's the first time two rookies have started 1-2 since Johnson and Ryan Newman in 2002 at Richmond.

Having two rookies in the front row didn't bother Nemecheck.

"I know for Bryan and Kasey it's going to be an experience," he said. "They're going to learn a lot tomorrow when we start doing race practice."

Vickers, last year's Busch series champion, brushed off any concern about inexperience as a factor. This is Vickers' sixth top-5 start and he won the pole in Richmond.

"In years past, you had drivers get to the Cup level that didn't do a whole lot of racing before they got here," Vickers said. "You drive for so many years before you get here, you learn a lot. I think that makes a difference. As rookies and drivers, you get opportunities in good cars with great teammates."

Mark Martin was fourth and Johnson starts fifth. Jeff Gordon, Jeremy Mayfield, Stewart, Greg Biffle and Dale Jarrett round out the top 10.

Kahne will be back at the track early Saturday for more practice laps before taking a helicopter to Gladeville, Tenn., for the Busch Series race that night. He'll fly back to Pennsylvania after the race.

"It's going to be fun," he said.


Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved.    | Contact Us