It’s not time to ring the alarm just yet for Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. but if another bad finish occurs in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, then it may be time to start the signal for it. Right now, they sits a disappointing 16th and 25th respectively in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings. If 12 races go by and they’re still not challenging for top fives, then it’s time to start writing them off as championship contenders for 2017.
If you don’t have your stuff together after 12 races, when will you? 12 races will really start to show if you have it or not. Even if one or both could fluke into a win in the next 14 races, would they really challenge in the playoffs?
That’s why Charlotte is a spot where both can start to build some momentum.
Kahne, ranks 10th all-time as far as driver stats go at Charlotte. He has five top fives and seven top 10’s in his last 11 starts there. He led 161 and 138 laps respectively in the two races at Charlotte in 2013. But, he has just two top fives all season, a fifth at Talladega and fourth in Atlanta. A seventh at Daytona gives him three total top 10’s, two of which are on restrictor plate tracks.
His other finishes are 12th, 14th, 15th, three 20th place efforts, 22nd and 38th. Does that look like a threat to you?
That’s why he needs to capitalize on his past Charlotte success, including a third place finish last fall and get a top five.
Same for Earnhardt Jr. He has just one top 10 all season, a fifth at Texas. Other than that, he has only one other top 15 and that was a 14th place effort at Phoenix. His other nine starts saw him finish 16th or worse. Those finishes?
16th, 16th, 20th, 22nd, 30th, 30th, 34th, 37th and 38th.
At Charlotte, he has just two top fives since 2007. He’s led a total of 48 laps over the last seven years there. Dating back to last year, he has just two top fives in his last 21 starts.
So, as you can see, both need a top five badly. Can it come on Sunday night?