Sometimes we brush off somebody's chances at a championship too soon. Heck, people were wondering if Jimmie Johnson was in trouble after his wreck in the opening laps at Daytona. (Um...no.) But with Kasey Kahne mired in the 30s deep into the season, you could forgive everyone outside of Kahne himself wondering if Cougar Bait's first year at Hendrick Motorsports was a splashy bust.
Shame on us all, then, for selling Kasey short. He put on an exceptional run of racing, including two wins, that vaulted him from forgotten to Chase lock, and almost into the top 10. In short, he's spent the last few months looking like a legitimate championship contender, something that we can't say of many of the other drivers ahead of him in the mix.
Kahne has that combination of reliability and "win ability" (whatever you call it when he can get a win at most tracks) that you need to survive in the Chase. He starts at the back of the pack points-wise, but odds are he'll be able to make up ground in short order.
His best Chase track: Charlotte, where he's got an average finish of 12.7. That'll be useful come October, but Kahne doesn't really have an exceptional record at any one Chase track.
His worst Chase track: Hmm. He's got a 20th or worse average finish at five Chase tracks: Phoenix, Talladega, Chicago, Martinsville and Dover. That doesn't bode so well for our boy. He'll need to better his average at four of five of those, minimum, to have any short of shot.
JB's take: This could be a very good Chase indeed for Kahne. The problem is, he still has a tendency, whether mechanical or operational, to post some finishes in the 30s. One of those, you might be able to survive and run at a Cup. Two or more, it's time to start looking to 2013. Our pick? He'll be a factor, but not a major one.