This season, Kasey Kahne is enjoying the view up front.
For the first time since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, he hasn’t had to spend the majority of the first third of the season digging out of a deep hole in the Sprint Cup Series standings.
Kahne was as low as 32nd in the series standings early in the 2012 season; as low as 34th in 2013; and found himself 28th at one point early last season.
This year, Kahne has yet to drift out of the top 10 in points heading into Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he has a career-best four victories.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Qualifying for Sunday’s race is at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“We got out of Daytona without wrecking, and that was something different than I think the six previous 500s or something like that for me,” Kahne said. “So, it was nice to start off in the top 10 right off the bat.
“We’ve been able to do a pretty good job of staying in that top 10 since. The only reason we’re in 10th right now is because of things happening. Tony (Stewart) got me at Bristol, and then we got in a wreck at Talladega.
“That’s worth 60 points right there.”
The strong start to the season also comes as Kahne began working with a new crew chief, Keith Rodden. Kahne spent the previous nine seasons working with Kenny Francis with four organizations.
Rodden, who previously worked with Kahne’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team as an engineer, spent last season as a crew chief in the Cup series with driver Jamie McMurray but returned to Hendrick in the offseason.
“We love racing and we love other forms of sports and stuff like that. So, we’ve always kind of had a common ground,” Rodden said of his relationship with Kahne. “We have something else we can talk about and then we have our job.
“To me, it’s been real comfortable and it hasn’t been a lot different.”
After the strong strart, Kahne believes there is more to come.
“I feel like we’re doing a good job. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re much closer and we know the things that we need to keep working on,” he said. “Keith has his things and the team guys do, as well. We’ve been trying to accomplish those things each week.”
While Kahne’s points position is solid, the one thing he still lacks this season is a victory, which would guarantee him a spot in the championship Chase for the fourth consecutive season.
Speed has not been a problem, but Kahne has led just 38 laps this season, with 29 coming in March at Martinsville, Va.
“We’ll take it any way we can. We want to make the Chase,” Kahne said. “We have goals this year like winning more races, running up front more often, being up front in practice, winning poles and doing things we didn’t do last year.
“I figured somewhere around Las Vegas we would know a lot about where we are at as a team. We’re in a much better position at this point of the season than we have in the last couple years.
“Now we need to take the next step and win one.”
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter