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Kahne Sees A Return to Glory

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         NASCAR NEWS - Thursday, January 31, 2008
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After Vegas test, Kahne sees a return to past glory
No. 9 puts up fourth-fastest time in final session of test 
By Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM

LAS VEGAS - Kasey Kahne can only hope the inexorable 
progress he showed during this week's second round of 
Sprint Cup Preseason Thunder testing is truly a predictor 
that he and his Gillett Evernham Motorsports team will 
return to the league-leading level of performance they 
displayed two seasons ago. 

After finishing eighth in the championship in 2006, with 
six wins, six poles and 19 top-10 finishes Kahne struggled 
to get a top 10 last season; ending with only eight, 
including one top-five. 

How ironic that Kahne's latest step in his "comeback" 
occurred at the same track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 
where he says his 2007 season took a dagger to the heart. 

"Last year our test went pretty good until I blew a right 
front tire and crashed my car that I had won all the races 
with," Kahne said during Tuesday's lunch break. "That was 
kind of the year at that point." 

A year ago, Cup teams came to Vegas to test for the first 
time after the 1.5-mile speedway had been reconfigured and 
repaved. Kahne had the fastest speed that Monday afternoon 
using the Dodge chassis with which he had won a league-
high six races the previous season; but crashed it in the 
closing moments of practice. 

Looking back, it seems that event put him and his team into 
a spiral from which they never recovered. This year; it 
took him until the last afternoon to get into the top five 
on the speed chart, but he ended the test very satisfied. 

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"I feel like we made some pretty good gains so far," Kahne 
said. "I'm looking forward to [the Car of Tomorrow]. The 
car -- the more you drive it, the more you work with it -- 
the better you make it feel [and] the more you like it. 

"I'm starting to like this car as far as the way it 
handles, and it's getting closer to the car we used to 
have at this place. We just have to keep working, keep 
fine tuning, and hopefully it will make things good." 

With the Car of Tomorrow being the full-time ride for the 
Sprint Cup this season, Kahne is trading off an increasing 
affinity for the vehicle, which he said began with a few 
relatively strong late-season runs. 

His four-session test on Monday and Tuesday reinforced it, 
as Kahne advanced from 33rd on the Monday morning speed 
chart, at 175.901 mph (30.699 seconds); to fourth on 
Tuesday afternoon, at 185.217 (29.155) -- an increase of 
1.544 seconds. 

"The thing that's been tough is we had a car that handled 
really well and did things a certain way," Kahne said. "We 
went to the Car of Tomorrow and it was like taking a step 
back. So on these tracks, it's the same way. It handles so 
much different, especially when you're off. The more you 
work with it, the better you get it to do the things that 
it needs to do to go around the track right [and] the more 
fun it gets to drive.  

"I think mainly it's just a matter of time. The more you 
work with the car, the better it gets. I'm starting to like 
it. I mean, I didn't care for it much last year at times. 
I thought we were pretty far off. Right now we seem like 
we're kind of in the ballpark [so] we'll keep working and 
we'll be where we need to be." 

Even with his evergreen nature, Kahne's looking forward to 
kicking off this season in less than three weeks with the 
Daytona 500, followed up two weeks later with the UAW-Dodge 
400 at Las Vegas. 

"I think we have a lot to learn still," Kahne said. "But 
we've made gains. I feel like when we come back for the 
race we'll be pretty strong. 

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"But I always feel pretty good about everything. Even last 
year when we were struggling, going into every Sunday, I 
thought, 'Hey, we can run good today. We can get things 
figured out and go fast.' 

"A lot of times we didn't. I try to look at the bright 
side, try to make things right. I think they'll be good 
this year. It might take us a little while. I'm kind of 
hoping these kinds of tests -- here and California -- is 
going to be really good for us." 

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this year's test 
was that Kahne's GEM teammates, the veteran Elliott Sadler 
and Canadian newcomer Patrick Carpentier, showed plenty 
of promise as well. 

Sadler had two top-10 showings on the four speed charts, 
including sixth on the final afternoon; while Carpentier, 
after Kahne took a test-drive in his No. 10 Charger and 
suggested some set-up improvements, moved up to a session-
best 21st on the final time sheet. 

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"They're trying things, we're trying things," Kahne said. 
"I just have driven these cars more than Patrick so I 
have a different way of explaining things compared to 
what he does. It was good for me to feel what it felt 
like, and also for his team to kind of listen to me 
explain it and talk to Patrick about it. 

"It wasn't what I would have wanted, but there were certain 
things his car was doing that were really good, and then 
there were other things that I didn't care for as much. 
We talked about that stuff. 

"I didn't go any faster than Patrick did. We ran about the 
same speed in the car. They just need to keep working on it 
and get him a better platform; a better setup and they'll 
go faster. 

"It's hard to figure that stuff out. It's hard to know -- 
to get into the sport and know, 'OK, what's a good car, 
what's a bad car? That feels pretty good. Is that really 
pretty good or is it not pretty good?' It's difficult." 

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