SLIDESHOW: Kasey Kahne comes home to Enumclaw

NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne gave local fans a treat when he came home to Enumclaw Thursday and then gave them a thrill Sunday when he earned his first top 10 finish of the 2010 season.

“It’s always nice to be back,” Kahne said of his pit stop at the Kasey Kahne Store Thursday, where he signed hundreds of autographs, posed for photographs, addressed the crowd and thanked fans for visiting the store through the years.

The 2005 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, also thanked his mom Tammy for running the store, which closed its doors in Enumclaw Sunday. The store will continue to sell merchandise online, but due to sponsorship changes, among other things, Kahne and his mother said an Enumclaw store is on hold for now.

“It’s been good for people in Enumclaw and good for people coming to Enumclaw,” Kahne said of the store, noting its guest registry shows someone visiting from every state in the country.

David Grimes of Kent and Cory Puhlman from North Bend got more than an autograph and a peek at the racing celebrity Thursday – they got a free shave as part of the Gillette Young Guns promotion. Kahne is part of the Gillette Young Guns advertising campaign to shave 500,000 faces during the season.

“I got a double today, a shave and an autograph,” Grimes said outside the motorhome.

Tacoma photographer Marcy Lagagniér presented Kahne with a photograph of Mount Rainier so he wouldn’t forget home.

Kahne admitted he doesn’t get back to Enumclaw very often, but said he tries to swing by when the teams are on the West Coast. Sprint Cup race teams were on their way from California to compete in Las Vegas Sunday.

During a question-and-answer period, Kahne, who scored six wins in 2006 and has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, NASCAR’s top tier of drivers, twice, said he’s trying to find his groove this season. After winning the nonpoints Gatorade Duel 2 in Daytona to open the season, he finished 30th at the Daytona 500 and 34th in Fontana, Calif.

“The season’s still so early in the year we have time to make it up,” Kahne said.

Sunday, the No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion team started making up lost ground with a ninth-place finish at Las Vegas Motorspeedway.

“We were a little bit off at the start and then we made a lot of adjustments to our Budweiser Ford,” he said after Sunday’s race. “As we got further to the front and the weather changed a little bit, I was doing the opposite of what was going on earlier. It was kind of a different setup than what we’ve run in the past, so we just need to work on that a little more and figure out exactly what happened there, but I was pleased. From where we were the first 100 laps, we made big gains.”

Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson won.

Kahne anticipates the finish to give him a jump in the points.

“We should be out of the 30s,” he said in postrace comments. “We had cars that could run in the top 10 in the first three races. We had a situation at Daytona and driver error at California and we finally got a top 10 here, so I think we’re where we should have been in the other races. Now we just have to keep working hard to try and get those points back.”

Racing continues Sunday at one of Kahne’s favorite tracks – Atlanta, where he posted wins in 2006 and in September of 2009.

Television coverage is scheduled for 10 a.m. on FOX.

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