Kasey Kahne figured out the best way to put coming close to a victory behind him. By winning the very next race. Kahne picked up his first victory of the season on Sunday at Bristol, moving to the lead with 39 laps to go and pulling away from Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski to pick up the win.
Kahne’s triumph is huge for the No. 5 team as it shows the team’s strength on smaller tracks. The victory was just Kahne’s second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win on a track smaller than one mile. To win a championship, a driver must be able to win races on a wide variety of tracks. Being able to win on short tracks, especially so early in the season, is a massive burst of momentum for a team expected to contend for a championship.
Any time a NASCAR champion has glowing praise for a driver, it raises the expectations sky high, so high that they may never be reached.
But based on the past weekend, Kyle Larson may be well on the way to meeting the glowing accolades of Tony Stewart. Earlier this season, Stewart had this to say about Larson:
“That kid is a lot better than (Jeff) Gordon or I was at his age. You’re going to be hearing about him for a long time. He’s a special talent.”
Larson served notice he will be indeed heard from for a long time during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday. After posting a strong run most of the day, he wheeled his banged-up car around the high side of the track, challenging for the lead and finishing a close second to Kyle Busch by just .023 seconds.
Think about that for a second. A driver is making just his fourth start within the series and goes door-to-door with one of the top drivers in NASCAR for the win.
Larson is a very promising young talent. His ability is something that’ll make the NASCAR Nationwide Series very intriguing to watch this season.
The team leads the points standings in both the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Brad Keselowski’s string of four top-five finishes in a row matches his career best.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Four top-ten finishes within the first four races of the season matches Earnhardt, Jr.’s best start to a season in his career at this point in a season. He is also second in the points standings.
He is in bad need of a strong finish with one top-10 finish so far in 2013. Gordon saw a bid for a strong finish come undone this past week when he cut a tire while leading the race.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Seeking a strong finish as the series heads to Auto Club Speedway, Montoya has finished no better than 12th through four races and was relegated to a 30th- place finish in Bristol due to a mechanical issue.