Aug 25, 2013, 10:35 PM EDT
Kahne has had multiple run-ins with Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing stablemates this season, but as he rose up to challenge the former Sprint Cup champion in the closing laps of the Irwin Tools Night Race, the anticipation for him taking revenge was palpable.
Did every single soul inside Thunder Valley expect him to do that? Maybe not every one, but likely, the vast majority did. It’s Bristol, where justice is often meted out with the proverbial “chrome horn.”
And considering what happened at the Glen, Kahne probably would’ve been met with wild cheers if he put Kenseth in the fence. But instead, Kahne looked for the clean way around.
As the laps wound down, he tried desperately to make the low groove work for him against Kenseth and couldn’t. He then went right behind Kenseth on the top groove, but didn’t pull off a “bump and run” maneuver and was defeated despite having the faster car of the pair.
“I think at the end of the day, I just don’t wreck people,” said Kahne, who won at Bristol this past spring but couldn’t claim a third 2013 win that likely would’ve cemented a spot for him in the Chase.
“I don’t know how all that was going to work out. I needed a win bad, but I also needed a finish, and I just didn’t do anything crazy. I just basically ran as hard as I could, tried to pass [Kenseth] two different times and ran on his bumper and hoped he’d screw up, and he really never did.”
As tempting as it may be for some to say that Kahne simply didn’t have the fortitude to retaliate against Kenseth, it bears noting that Bristol is a different beast than it once was.
The high groove – which is where Kenseth was throughout his battle for the win with Kahne – has become the fastest way around. Even if Kahne had managed to really tag Kenseth’s back bumper and wreck him, it’s likely he would’ve also been collected as well.
In hindsight, Kahne was damned no matter if he raced clean or raced for revenge. By choosing the former, he’s opened himself to criticism over whether he has any “edge” at all. But if he had gone with the latter, both he and Kenseth may have wound up on the hook.
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