Kasey Kahne happy to be back in playoffs, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in first playoff

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Kasey Kahne will end his tenure with Hendrick Motorsports at season’s end by making his first appearance in the NASCAR Cup playoffs since 2014, when the 10-race playoff was expanded to a 16-driver field.

Kahne comes into the playoffs ranked 13th. He earned an automatic playoff berth when he won the Brickyard 400, his first Cup win since the 2014 season.

Kahne finished 12th in Saturday’s race, his second-best showing since the Brickyard 400.

“I’ve been here (with Hendrick Motorsports) five or six years,” Kahne said in a post-race interview with NBCSN. “So to finish as high as I possibly can, with these guys.

“Doing it all together, putting in the best effort we can each week, when it’s all said and done, we’ll be happy about our effort and finish out what’s next.”

Stenhouse, meanwhile, qualified for his first playoffs in his fifth full-time season in NASCAR Cup.

Stenhouse has had his long-awaited breakthrough season in 2017, winning the first two races of his Cup career — the spring race at Talladega and the summer race at Daytona.

Even though he finished 19th in Saturday’s race, Stenhouse enters the playoffs in eighth position, 43 points behind top-ranked Martin Truex Jr.

“It’s cool to be in our first playoffs and can’t wait to see if we can’t advance a few rounds and put a 10-race stretch together,” Stenhouse told NBCSN. “We have to find a little bit more speed in our cars.

“We’ve been searching for that all summer long. I like the tracks coming up and have had success there. Looking forward to our first playoffs and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.