Kasey Kahne has transitioned from a sought-after young hotshot to a driver capable of winning on a wide array of tracks. He annually challenges for a berth in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup and has his best team alignment beginning in 2012 as part of the powerful Hendrick Motorsports. For Kahne, it’s just another step toward gaining the success his career has always seemed to promise. The soft-spoken 32-year-old native of Enumclaw, Wash., joined NASCAR under the tutelage of crew-chief-turned-team-owner Ray Evernham and remained with the organization through a series of ownership changes and mergers, including one with Richard Petty. He took Richard Petty Motorsports to Victory Lane for the first time in years, then joined Red Bull Racing for 2011 and also snared that organization's lone victory for the season. Now he's in the Hendrick house. What else has Kahne accomplished in his career? Rea White takes a look at 10 of Kahne’s NASCAR achievements.
Getty Images for NASCARJared C. Tilton
On Sept. 5, 2005, Kahne was honored by his hometown of Enumclaw, Wash., with Kasey Kahne day. He celebrated his second season of Cup competition with his native fans – a season where he won the first race of his career, at Richmond International Raceway, and finished second to Tony Stewart in the Brickyard 400.
Kahne not only steadily made his way through the ranks of various NASCAR series, he showed his ability to adapt and find success quickly each step of the way. In 2004, he debuted with Evernham Motorsports and team owner Ray Evernham. It was a daunting task – Kahne was moving to NASCAR’s top tier with a newly formed team that was bringing manufacturer Dodge back into the Cup arena. That didn’t slow him at all. Kahne took the rookie of the year honor in a season in which he earned 14 top-10 finishes, 13 of them top fives, four pole positions and finished 13th in the series standings.
In his ninth full season of Cup competition, Kahne’s ability to compete with the frontrunners has netted him more than $51 million in career purses.
Since debuting full time in NASCAR in 2004, Kahne has earned 25 career points victories. He has also won the non-points all-star race and a qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. He took team co-owner Richard Petty back to Victory Lane in 2009, gaining a popular and emotional win with the organization formed after an offseason merger. Overall, he has 14 points Cup victories – which have come on intermediate tracks, short tracks and a road course – seven in the Nationwide Series and four in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Kahne showed his ability to adapt to stock cars at a fast pace. In 2003, his first full Nationwide Series season, he drove for team owner Brad Akins – and showed his potential. He earned his first NASCAR win and closed the season with 14 top-10 finishes, four of them top-fives, to place seventh in the series standings – again, in his debut full season. The following year, he joined forces with team owner Ray Evernham and embarked on his Cup career.
Kahne spent the 2001 and 2002 seasons making a transition. In 2001, he ran a limited schedule not only in the USAC Midgets, but also in the Toyota Atlantic Series and Formula Ford 2000 Series. In 2002, he made his move into NASCAR. He ran 20 races, earning one top-10 finish, and one ARCA event for team owner Robert Yates.
Kahne first made a name for himself in the United States Auto Club racing series. In 2000, he enjoyed his strongest season in USAC, winning the Midget Series championship and National Midget Driver of the Year honors. He continued to find success the following season, earning four wins and 10 top-five finishes in just 11 series starts. That season, he became only the second driver – behind Jeff Gordon – to win back-to-back Night before the 500 Classic races at O’Reilly Raceway Park.
Kahne earned his initial berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2006 – when it was still a field of 10 drivers – and returned to the group in 2009. The 2006 season was his career-best Sprint Cup outing, though. That season, Kahne’s third as a full-time Cup driver, he tallied not only six victories but also a series of top finishes. In 36 starts, Kahne posted 19 top-10 finishes, 12 of them top fives, and led 744 laps. If not for six DNFs, he would have easily finished higher than the eighth position in the standings.
In 2006, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis were on a tear. In 36 starts, they won six Cup races. Kahne was particularly potent on intermediate tracks and won that season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway (twice), Michigan International Speedway and the short track, Richmond International Raceway.
Kahne is the only driver ever voted into the annual all-star race to go on and actually win the event. In 2008, Kahne needed to race his way into the main event in the qualifying race. He failed to do so, but then emerged as the winner of the fan vote and made the race. He went on to hold off Greg Biffle in the closing laps to win the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kahne added to the lore by following up the victory with a win in the next week’s Coca-Cola 600, also held at the Charlotte track.