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Auto racing notes: No drama for Kahne with Hendrick Motorsports

Sun., May 5, 2013, midnight

Kasey Kahne had a full day of work ahead of him at Talladega Superspeedway but his mind was 1,200 miles away.

His sprint cars were racing at Eldora Speedway, and Kahne was determined to find a way to get to the track. Only Tony Stewart wasn’t answering his text messages, and Kahne was getting frustrated.

No need to worry, NASCAR fans. Kahne has no plans to swap series. He’s off to the best start of his career, living drama-free at Hendrick Motorsports, and couldn’t be more pleased with his place in the Sprint Cup Series.

“I’m in a pretty good spot right now,” Kahne said.

Indeed, driving for Rick Hendrick may finally have given Kahne the home he’d been searching for.

Kenny Francis came with him, continuing a relationship that began at the end of the 2005 season – second-longest in the Sprint Cup Series only to Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus in driver-crew chief pairings. They overcame a rough start to their debut season with Hendrick last year to win two races, make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and finish a career-best fourth in the standings.

This year, Kahne doesn’t have the deep hole to dig out of – he heads into today’s race at Talladega Superspeedway ranked third in points and already has a win.

So, yeah, his mind still wanders to World of Outlaws racing because he’s got a vested interest with his three Kasey Kahne Racing entries. But he’s so pleased at Hendrick Motorsports that he’s no longer plotting and scheming to fill his schedule with different forms of motorsports.

“For a while IndyCar was really something I looked at. It was something I wanted to try and figure out how to do the 500,” Kahne said. “But lately, for whatever reason, since I’ve been with Hendrick Motorsports, I’ve felt like everything is sitting there for me now. Team-wise, personnel, ownership, sponsorship – everything is there. And I just really – it’s time for me to figure out how to win races and win a championship if I’m going to do it.”

Kahne isn’t very complicated. He wants fast cars, little stress and familiarity.

At Hendrick, it’s stress-free.

“You can go through any of the shops, any area, and guys are pretty happy,” Kahne said. “That’s not really normal. A lot of times guys are mad or angry because drivers crashed too many cars. At Hendrick, the atmosphere and the people, it’s a lot happier, and I think that starts at the top with Mr. H. He gives us all that happy feeling from the way he runs things and the way he treats everyone.”

Smith wins wreck-fest

Regan Smith won the crash-filled Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway when NASCAR said he was leading at the final caution flag Saturday night.

The race was delayed three hours by rain and slowed by several cautions, and NASCAR cut the distance by 10 laps as darkness closed in on the track. Then Joey Coulter brought out a caution and NASCAR decided to make one attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.

At least 10 cars were jockeying for position in packs of two on the final lap when Brian Vickers was spun hard into the outside wall. Smith, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne raced three-wide to the finish line and Kahne crossed it first.

But NASCAR decided Smith was leading when the caution came out and was the winner.

Pit stops

American Ryan Hunter-Reay set a track record to win the pole position for today’s Sao Paulo 300 IndyCar race. The defending IndyCar Series champion was timed in 1 minute, 20.430 seconds for a lap at the Anhembi street track. He was 0.307 seconds ahead of Venezuela’s EJ Viso and 0.461 in front of Scotland’s Dario Franchitti. Home-crowd favorite Tony Kanaan was fourth despite an injured right hand that caused him problems throughout the day. Winning the Sao Paulo 300 for a fourth straight time became a lot harder for Will Power after a mishap in qualifying sent him to the back of the grid for the race. The Australian, who won all three previous races in Brazil, will start only 22nd after his Penske team took a risk that turned costly for both of its drivers on Saturday. Helio Castroneves, the points leader and a home-crowd favorite, will start 18th on the streets of Sao Paulo. … Rain has washed out qualifying for today’s Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway. The field was set based on practice times from Friday’s first session, and Carl Edwards was fastest to earn the pole in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford. … Rain forced NHRA officials to postpone the NHRA Southern Nationals until next weekend. Two sessions of qualifying are set for Friday at Atlanta Dragway, and the final eliminations will be run Saturday.

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