With Sunday's win at Atlanta, the 29-year-old Kahne has now hosted his Richard Petty Motorsports team namesake in victory circle twice this season. And for the first time in almost 25 years, "The King" at least has a shot to hold NASCAR's crown again.
Kahne will clinch a playoff berth Saturday night if drives the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge to a 21st place finish or better at Richmond International Raceway -- site of his first career Sprint Cup Series victory in 2005.
It's the first time in too long that Petty and championship have appeared in the same sentence without being a nostalgic reference to the good ol' days. Things are pretty good these days.
A late-season resurgence has positioned Kahne well for the 10-race Chase for the Championship. And if four-time winners Mark Martin and Kyle Busch fail to make the Chase -- neither has clinched a spot -- Kahne could even start as high as third place in the standings when the points are re-set based on wins.
"Maybe we got off to slow start, but hopefully all the stuff that we've done, all the stuff we've learned being a crew and being a team deal sort of gels at the end of the season,'' Petty said following Kahne's win last weekend.
Kahne's job driving for Petty involves three degrees of separation -- Ray Evernham hired Kahne as rookie in 2004, then sold part of the team to George Gillett, whose Gillett Motorsports merged with Petty Enterprises prior to the start of this season, rebranding the four-car operation Richard Petty Motorsports.
On Thursday RPM announced its intent to merge again -- with Yates Racing -- keeping the Richard Petty Motorsports moniker but switching from Dodge power to Ford.
Reverence for Petty is evident in more than the logo -- which has now survived and branded even through multiple mergers.
Kahne has been candid and emotional about how much it would mean to give Petty a reason to visit victory circle for the first time since 1999 when John Andretti last won for Petty Enterprises.
And sure enough, Kahne and Petty were so overwhelmed and joyous when that moment came this summer in Sonoma, Calif., Petty drank wine with Kahne during the winner's celebration -- noteworthy because for years Petty refused to allow any alcohol sponsorship decals on his cars.
It's a far cry from the modest celebration Petty enjoyed after each of his record 200 wins. But then it's been a long time coming.
"I won a couple races and told the people, 'excuse me, I've got to go to the bathroom,' I think that was the most exciting thing that I ever done,'' Petty joked.
The last time Petty finished top-five in the Cup championship was a pair of fourth place efforts in 1980 and 1983 -- when he was still driving.
Since then, Bobby Hamilton's ninth-place title run in 1996 is the best the team has fared. A Petty team has only cracked the top-20 in the final standings once (with driver Bobby Labonte, 18th in 2007) in the 13 seasons since.
"I'm a hard head, that's the reason I come back,'' Petty said.
And the same tenacity that helped him earn a record seven championships and 200 victories is serving him well -- finally -- as a team owner.
Petty is still the competitor, even if his teams haven't been competitive in recent years.
The merger with Gillett (who first bought into Evernham Motorsports in 2007, forming Gillett Evernham Motorsports, and then bought out founding team owner Ray Evernham the following season) gave Petty a driver lineup -- anchored by Kahne -- that he can count on.
In a season of sentimental choices that also includes Martin's championship run -- Petty is savoring the renewed opportunity and relevance.
He is an icon in the way Arnold Palmer is to golf and Babe Ruth to baseball. And it's a shot in the arm for NASCAR to have its 73-year old King holding court again.
There is no better ambassador. Here is a famous athlete who took penmanship classes when he was young to perfect his signature for autographs, a superstar who not only poses with fans for photographs but patiently allows for do-overs if the shot wasn't just right.
While many of NASCAR's current stars have perfected the don't stop-don't engage walk around the garage, it takes Petty 13 seconds to sign his full name; his number 43, inserted into the oversized loop in the Petty "y" - a finishing touch he offers with pride.
He has a way of making people walk away feeling like they did him a favor, instead of the other way around.
"You've got to figure I've been doing this since I was 7 years old and it's all I've ever done and all I've ever really wanted to do,'' Petty said.
"Basically now it's my hobby. I don't play golf. I'm not that big a hunter,and all this kind of stuff. My hobby is being around the racetrack seeing people and just doing the things that I'm doing.
"Sometimes it gets aggravating but overall, it's really what I want to do ... I always feel like as long as I can do it, I want to keep doing it because if I ever pull over to the side of the road, somebody is going to go by me and I don't like that part.''