Kasey Kahne hopes to start running the new Dodge engine soon in order to regain competitiveness and get back in contention for victories.
The Richard Petty Motorsports driver won last year's All-Star race and then he went on to take victory in the Coke 600 a week later at Lowe's Motor Speedway. This season though, he ranks 16th in the points with a fifth place at Bristol his best result.
The 29-year-old believes his team will gain from switching to the new Dodge R6P8 engine, which he is expected to race for the first time at Dover in two weeks. Rivals Penske have been running the engine since last year and have already yielded benefits from it this season.
"I think there's definitely something there," said Kahne. "The engine is supposed to be lighter, the way they've built it. They put some time into it and it should be able to run a little bit cooler which creates more take on the front of the car, which creates more downforce. The torque should be up a good bit.
"You watch when I start around, say [Penske drivers], David Stremme or Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish, as they come up through the gears, their engines really go hard compared to ours through that range.
"In the past I haven't felt like Penske's have ever been better than Richard Petty Motorsports engines, so I think once we get that R6 engine it will help our torque curve. The horsepower will hopefully be a little better also, but I think it's getting to that point where that engine's going to be a lot better."
Despite being out of the top 12 in the championship, Kahne is confident that if they keep making progress they will be able to make the Chase. He reckons it is still too early in the season to write off their chances of being title contenders.
"It seemed like we were in the top 12 a little bit earlier in the season," Kahne said. "We've dropped some lately, but from where we ran I feel really good being only 60 points out of 12. So if we keep picking it up, keep getting better, like I feel we should and we will, I think we're still in a fine position.
"I think if it gets another month or two into it and you're 60, 70 points out of 12th, you have to start really figuring out how you get those points. But right now I don't really feel like there's too much more pressure."
A year ago, Kahne was 14th in the championship and despite winning two races he was unable to make the series play-off, finishing the season in that same position.
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