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LONG POND, Pa. -- Kasey Kahne's bad luck with Joe Gibbs Racing cars continues.
Consistent run-ins with Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth in 2013 prompted Kahne to actually take to Twitter last August after Watkins Glen to say that he was "headed to Joe Gibbs Racing to talk to whoever will come out front."
Things eventually died down, even to the point of Kahne and Busch burying the hatchet and combining for a friendly Super Bowl wager that pitted the Hendrick Motorsports driver's home state Seattle Seahawks against Busch's NFL loyalty to the Denver Broncos.
So when the pair got together with 18 laps to go in Sunday's Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway, relegating the struggling No. 5 car to a 42nd-place finish while the No. 18 rode to a 12th-place result, it'd be easy to joke that Busch was still a little bitter about having to wear a Seahawks jersey during Speedweeks in February.
Kahne said there was more to it than that.
"That's just Kyle being Kyle. I had just passed him and he was probably pissed off because his car was slow," said Kahne, who now sits winless in 21st place in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. "He knew he needed just to floor it so I would lift. And I didn't lift ? He knew if he didn't clear me there that I'd pass him back because I just had, so he just floored it and didn't care there was someone out there and ran me right into the wall. We had a pretty good Great Clips Chevy. We came from a ways back throughout the race and that's just Kyle doing his thing I guess. ? He just races however he races."
For Kahne, the discouraging finish continues a string of inconsistent results -- regardless of how strong his car actually was during the race.
Things looked to be turning a corner for a three-week stretch from Talladega through the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, where he strung together an eighth-place finish, his first top-five of the season (third at Kansas) and blazing fast speed -- he was easily the fastest car in the exhibition race before hitting an oil slick -- but he's since trailed off. The team wasn't able to find Charlotte speed in back-to-back weeks, finishing 14th in the Coca-Cola 600 after qualifying third, and he was never in serious contention at Dover before a 19th-place result.
Despite a starting position of 27th, Pocono offered Kahne an opportunity to turn things around, as his last win came here the last time the series visited northeastern Pennsylvania.
"I thought we were a top-10 car," said Kahne, who was evaluated and released from the infield care center after his hard hit. "We'd made some gains from the rest of the weekend and we were running lap times from fifth to eighth, somewhere in there over the last 70 laps.
"We were a lot stronger last year and I don't know why we weren't as strong (this year), but I felt pretty darn good. The guys that I could see drive away from me were Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and (Brad) Keselowski. Other than that I didn't really feel like anyone drove away from me once I got into the top 10, like those two could."
Considering Earnhardt Jr. and Keselowski were the two drivers than finished first and second, it's a slight bit of consolation for the Hendrick driver, knowing his team can at least put together a solid race car -- they just have to hope the tide starts to turn in their favor. Kahne does have a win at Michigan International Speedway, the site of next week's Sprint Cup Series race, but that came all back in 2006 driving for a different team, owner and manufacturer.
As far as the Busch drama that can't seem to be fully put to bed, Kahne has bigger fish to fry than to worry about any sort of retaliation -- first and foremost, picking up his first win of 2014.
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