Kahne earns Michigan pole

Roush returns to track 17 days after plane crash in Wisconsin

Staff WriterAugust 14, 2010 

— Kasey Kahne won the pole for Sunday's Carfax 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway on Friday. But Kahne's effort was overshadowed by the presence of a man wearing a wide-brimmed hat making the rounds along pit road.

Two days after being released from the hospital and 17 days after walking away from an airplane crash, team owner Jack Roush was back at the race track.

His injuries from this crash are numerous: In addition to losing sight in his left eye, Roush has a damaged left cheek, a broken jaw and a fractured back. He said that except for his left eye, he expects to have a full recovery.

"I feel very lucky," said Roush. "I've had several bites at the apple here. I feel in some ways unworthy. I'm not sure I've done enough yet for the chances I've had. Maybe that's recognized and they're just giving me more time."

Roush was piloting a small jet that, according to reports, "pancaked" the runway July 27 in Oshkosh, Wis., after he avoided another small plane that also was flying close to the ground.

Roush - who also survived a 2002 plane crash and said he's been in two racing accidents - spent the next two weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

On the track, the talk was Kahne.

The 18th pole of his career comes the same week it was announced he will spend next season as an interim driver for Red Bull Racing. He's set to join Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. He had a lap of 187.183 mph around Michigan's 2-mile, D-shaped track. He will start alongside Jimmie Johnson (187.086).

She's back: Danica Patrick returns to NASCAR today for a Nationwide race that will again feature the series' new car.

Nationwide's version of the "car of tomorrow" will run for the second time this season in the Carfax 250 at Michigan International Speedway. Each manufacturer's car - Ford's Mustang, Chevy's Impala, Dodge's Challenger and Toyota's Camry - will have a distinct look that's true to its brand. The cars are also more cost efficient and safer - like their Sprint Cup counterparts.

The new car, which will run full-time in 2011, will also be used at Richmond in September and at Charlotte's October race.

Patrick, who last drove in a Nationwide race July 9 at Chicagoland Speedway (where she finished a season-best 24th), said she's still figuring out NASCAR and its tracks.

"Everybody here knows what they're doing," said Patrick, driving a stock car at Michigan for the first time. "Then there's me, who doesn't know how to get out of the garage area."

Patrick has mixed five Nationwide races this season with her Indy Car schedule, with an average finish of 31.2. She will also race Nationwide events at Dover, Del. (Sept. 25); Fontana, Calif. (Oct. 9); Charlotte (Oct. 15); Madison, Ill. (Oct. 23); Texas (Nov. 6); Phoenix (Nov. 13); and Homestead, Fla. (Nov. 20).

Qualifying for today's 2 p.m. Nationwide race is this morning at 10:10 a.m.

Conway loses ride: Extenze Racing announced Friday it was suspending its operations, leaving rookie Kevin Conway without a ride.

Conway had started 21 races this season, finishing 18 of them with a best finish of 14th at Daytona in July. Conway had been the only rookie running regularly in Cup racing this season.

Chitwood hired at Daytona: Joie Chitwood III was named president of Daytona International Speedway on Friday. He replaces Robin Braig.

Trucks at Darlington: NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series returns to Darlington Raceway tonight for the first time since 2004 with the Too Tough To Tame 200.

dscott@charlotteobserver.com or 704-358-5889

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