Kasey Kahne hopes his first win of the season will give him enough momentum to get back in the top 12 in the driver standings in order to make this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The 29-year-old climbed to 13th place following his victory at Sears Point last weekend, with just three points separating him from 12th-placed Juan Pablo Montoya.
Kahne's team recently ran its new R6P8 Dodge engine for the first time and has had a boost in performance. Although he didn't run it last weekend at Sonoma, he believes that and his first victory of the season can set his team up for a string of good races to get into the hunt for this year's title.
"The timing is perfect because with 10 races to the Chase, we're right there in the mix," said Kahne. "We've been strong for the last month and really haven't had the results that we're looking for. But we have our newest, latest cars and our newest, latest engines. To me, it feels like February and we're about to start the season with all the new stuff that we have."
The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has only made the Chase once in his career, back in 2006 when he finished eighth in the championship with six victories. Last year, he finished the season in 13th place, just missing the cut.
Kahne hopes Petty's new engine, coupled with the lighter cars they've been running lately, can will help him to be among the title contenders come September.
"The [new] engine has more power; we just need to work on better fuel mileage when it comes to fuel mileage races," Kahne said. "We've been working hard on making that better and still having the power that we need."
"In the past couple of years, I'd say that we've been close with all that stuff, but we're always on the edge of making [the Chase] or not making it. We have to be strong here in the next five races and get more solidly in there than being right on the edge."
In the past, Kahne has won at four of the coming 10 tracks before the Chase starts.