Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw is the defending champion in the Coca-Cola 600, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event scheduled for Sunday.
CONCORD, N.C. — The Coca-Cola 600 is a long day that bleeds into a long night.
Drivers can either fight that reality or embrace it. Count defending champion Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw as someone who loves the longest race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
“I’ve always really liked the longer races,” Kahne said. “It gives you more time to work on your car, more time to kind of fine tune and get it as perfect as you can for those last 50 to 100 miles.”
The evidence is apparent: Kahne has won the 600 three times, tying him with several others for second in victories in the event’s history, behind Darrell Waltrip’s five. Kahne will start sixth, based on Thursday’s qualifying, in Sunday’s race.
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Long races are about attrition. Those who can avoid chain-reaction wrecks or not wear out their cars do well anywhere, but particularly so in these endurance events. It is telling Kahne has completed 96.8 percent of his laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
For the most part, the 33-year-old Kahne is even-tempered. That suits the patience one needs to not take crazy chances over a 600-mile race.
“(This) has always been one of my favorite races, just because there’s a lot of communication going on where you need a good crew chief and a good engineer,” Kahne said. “People are going to listen and work with you — understand what you’re saying. I have that with Kenny (Francis, crew chief) and Keith (Rodden, engineer).”
Rodden has worked with Kahne for one season, but Francis and Kahne have been together since 2005. Only Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have a longer span in a Sprint Cup driver-crew chief pairing.
Kahne and Francis have worked for different race teams in that span. They have qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship three times, including last season.
“I’d say we’re both pretty mellow,” Kahne said. “Because we’re both kind of mild-mannered we get along really well … no reason to scream and yell at each other.”
• Kahne was second in Saturday’s History 300, a Nationwide Series event won by Kyle Busch.
Busch raced to his sixth Nationwide victory of the season and a record seventh career victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch led for 186 of 200 laps, beat Kahne by 0.939 seconds and extended his series record for victories to 57.