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Kahne already doomed in the Chase

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Kasey Kahne has his work cut out for him if he wants to rebound in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, after engine woes hampered his day early at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. But in reality, recent changes at Richard Petty Motorsports might have ended his team's title efforts even before the 10-race Chase began.

Kahne's engine expired just 66 laps into Sunday's Sylvania 300. He suffered the worst finish among the 12 drivers competing in the Chase with a 38th-place result. Kahne is now 12th in the championship standings, and trails Chase leader and race winner Mark Martin by 161 points.

"It's disappointing," Kahne said. "We just have to work extra hard now. I don't know how this all works. You never know in the Chase if you can have a mulligan or not."

Kasey Kahne trails Chase leader and race winner Mark Martin by 161 points.
Kahne qualified for the Chase with a 12th-place finish last week at Richmond. He secured the fifth seed in the playoffs by virtue of his two victories during the regular season. Kahne trailed Martin by 20 points at the time.

Since winning the September 6 race at Atlanta, Kahne's No.9 Dodge team has been rattled with recent shake-ups at RPM, particularly the firing of Mark McArdle, the team's vice president and managing director of competition, and the impending merger with Yates Racing in 2010. RPM also will switch from Dodge to Ford next year.

"[McArdle had] changed some things that I think have helped and benefited us," Kahne said. "They had their issues with things, and he's gone. He's been gone a week now, and I think our team can step up and do a good job and they've shown it throughout the year."

With McArdle's departure, Kahne admitted these are troubling times for RPM since the racing organization currently lacks leadership.

"Well, that's a tough question, because I really don't know who it is either," he responded, when asked who is the current decision maker at RPM. "There are not a lot of answers out there right now. I don't know if it's because we're in the middle of a lot of things. We just don't have a person in that position."

As part of their upcoming merger, RPM will switch to Yates Engines, ending the organization's engine department and eliminating dozens of jobs.

Since the Chase format began in 2004, Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to finish worse than sixth in the first race of the playoffs and go on to win the Cup championship. Johnson finished 39th in the 2006 fall event at New Hampshire, but rallied in the final nine races to capture his first of three consecutive titles. He ended the year 56 points ahead of second-place Matt Kenseth.

Fortunately, Johnson did not bear the same distractions that Kahne is facing right now.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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