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Kasey Kahne still smiling despite recent racing setbacks

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Kasey Kahne’s NASCAR season and career were cut short in September because of dehydration issues. Ten races into his return to driving sprint cars full-time, he was injured and has not competed since late March. He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return.

“It’s been a rough year for me and racing,” Kahne tells NBC Sports, standing in his race shop, near one of the sprint cars he should be getting ready to drive. 

Even as he speaks about all the disappointment in the last eight months, he smiles.

“I’m still happy,” Kahne says, shortly after having hugged 3-year-old son Tanner. “I know it won’t be long and I’ll be fine and then, hopefully, these rough years are behind me.”

Kahne smiles again.

Kasey Kahne signs autographs for fans during a recent open house at his race shop in Mooresville, North Carolina. (Photo: Dustin Long)

It’s the look many NASCAR fans know well. Although Kahne is 39 years old, he looks much like the 23-year-old rookie who grabbed so much attention when he finished second in three of his first seven starts in NASCAR’s premier series. Kahne remains as thin as those days and ready to race. 

He just can’t now because of his undisclosed injury.

So he waits and stays busy.

“I feel like I’m way too young to not work or anything like that,” Kahne says. “Always working on ideas to do.”

As for his racing, Kahne isn’t sure. He was injured in a March 29 flip at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He hopes to be cleared by July 1 so he can spend the summer racing. That way he’ll be better prepared for the Knoxville Nationals (Aug. 7-10). 

If he’s not cleared by July 1, he says he doesn’t anticipate being ready to run at Knoxville a year after his team, Kasey Kahne Racing, won the Nationals with driver Brad Sweet.

Kahne looks forward to racing again based on how the sprint car season started.

“It was really up and down, but we were making a lot of gains and I was making a lot of gains,” Kahne says. “I felt the final two races before I went out for a bit were my best two, and I was heading in the right direction.”

James McFadden will drive Kasey Kahne’s car until Kahne returns. (Photo: Dustin Long)

“I think right now my car that James McFadden is going to drive is going to be awesome for him because we’re in a good direction. I’m really hoping he has a lot of success over the next month or maybe the next two months.”

With being out of the car, Kahne is enjoying more time with friends and family. He watched the All-Star Race. He hosted a barbecue the night of Coca-Cola 600 qualifying last week and spent Sunday watching the races.

Seeing Clint Bowyer swing at Ryan Newman after the All-Star Race brought back a particular memory for Kahne.

“Me and Kevin Harvick got into it once at Phoenix,” Kahne says of their battle for fourth late in Kahne’s rookie year. “We were like running tight, super close. After the race, I bumped him and actually was just saying good race, and I think he was thinking I was mad at him. Instantly, the veteran is going to get pissed, which I totally understand now.

“He’s at my car before I’ve shut it off. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do. Then (Kahne’s crew chief) Tommy Baldwin is mad. It was funny how that all worked. That was kind of like we were mad at each other but we weren’t after we talked.”

Last weekend’s races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway brought back other memories for Kahne. 

Three of his 18 career Cup wins came in the Coca-Cola 600. His last Cup victory was in 2017 at Indy. He is one of eight drivers who have won both the 600 and Brickyard 400 in their careers. 

Three of those drivers are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame (Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon). A fourth will be inducted in January (Bobby Labonte). Three others are future Hall of Famers (Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick). 

Kahne counts his third Coca-Cola 600 victory as among his most memorable because it was his first with Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.

He recalls much of what happened during his Brickyard 400 win but not much afterward. He was dehydrated after that race, showing signs of what would force him out of the car in 2018.

“The problem with the Brickyard is that I was do dehydrated and stuff and throwing up and just felt horrible and all I wanted to do was to go to sleep and I didn’t get to enjoy the win,” Kahne says. “It took until Wednesday before I even felt halfway decent.”

His condition became more challenging and led to last year’s Southern 500 being his final Cup race.

“An hour to go in that race, I said you better never do this again,” Kahne recalls of that race where he battled dehydration and went to the infield care center after finishing 24th. “This is not good.

“Then after I felt better like the next Friday, I was like I need to race some more.”

Kasey Kahne signs diecast cars for a fan at Kasey Kahne Racing’s open house earlier in May. (Photo: Dustin Long)

He didn’t get the chance in NASCAR. The longer races made it challenging for his body because he was sweating so much. He announced in October that he had not been cleared to race the rest of the season. Having previously said 2018 would be his last in Cup, his career in that series ended. 

While he can’t compete in the long races of NASCAR, the shorter sprint car races are not a problem for Kahne.

He looks forward to getting back into the car. Although Tanner, who has enjoyed all the extra time with his father, expressed other feelings the other day.

“He doesn’t like me getting into race cars any more,” Kahne says. “If I get in one, he tells me to get out. Just because he’s glad that I’m home and not racing.

“I know he likes racing. He had fun when we were at the track.”

Kahne can’t wait to go back as a driver instead of just a car owner.

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Truck Series playoffs expands to 10 teams

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The playoffs for the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will expand from eight to 10 drivers in 2020, NASCAR announced Tuesday.

Two teams will be eliminated after the first round and four eliminated after second round.

How each round of the playoffs will unfold:

Round of 10: World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Bristol Motor Speedway

Round of 8: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Martinsville Speedway

Championship 4: Phoenix Raceway

“Expanding the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoff field to 10 is a win-win for drivers, teams and, most importantly, the passionate fans who support our Gander Trucks,” Truck Series Managing Director Brad Moran said in a statement from NASCAR. “This will only increase the competitive intensity this series offers, as more drivers and teams vie for one of the most coveted championships in all of racing.”

Had there been 10 drivers allowed in last year’s playoffs, ThorSport Racing’s Ben Rhodes and Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Harrison Burton would have gotten those spots. KBM did not have any drivers in the playoffs.

The first two races of the playoffs, at Gateway and Canada, will feature the new pit road rules for standalone races in the Truck and Xfinity Series.

Reports: Daniel Suarez to drive for Gaunt Brothers Racing

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Multiple reports state that Daniel Suarez will drive the No. 96 Cup car for Gaunt Brothers Racing in 2020.

The team has not made any an announcement.

Toby Christie reported Friday at tobychristie.com that a deal was done for Suarez to drive the full Cup season for Gaunt Brothers Racing. Motorsport.com reported Monday that Suarez would join Gaunt Brothers Racing for the full season.

Suarez would replace Parker Kligerman, who confirmed to NBC Sports on Friday that he would not return to the No. 96 car this season.

This would be the fourth Cup season for Suarez. He drove for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017-18 before being replaced by Martin Truex Jr. Suarez moved to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2019 and was replaced after the season by rookie Cole Custer.

Suarez continues to seek his first Cup win. He has eight top-five and 32 top-10 finishes in 108 Cup starts. He won the 2016 Xfinity title, a year after winning rookie of the year honors in that series.

Gaunt Brothers Racing debuted in 2017, running one race with D.J. Kennington. The team ran 22 races the following year between Kligerman, D.J. KenningtonJeffrey Earnhardt and Jesse Little. The team ran 15 races last year with Drew Herring running once along with Kligerman’s 14 starts.

HighPoint to sponsor Chase Briscoe in multiple Xfinity Series races

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Chase Briscoe will have a new sponsor in 2020 in HighPoint.com, a customer service and technology solutions company, Stewart-Haas Racing announced Tuesday.

Briscoe, who returns for a second full-time Xfinity Series season with SHR, will have HighPoint as a primary sponsor on his No. 98 Ford for 10 races. The Sparta, New Jersey-based company will make its debut with the Feb. 15 season opener at Daytona.

For all other races, HighPoint will be an associate sponsor.

“Even though we race stock cars, there’s nothing stock about what we do,” Briscoe said in a press release. “The science of our cars is impressive, but the technology that goes into building our Ford Mustangs and then making them perform is even more advanced. Our IT needs are pretty complex, and we demand a lot from our technology every day, whether it’s at the shop or at the track. HighPoint is more than just a sponsor – they’re a partner that helps us perform.”

As part of the deal, HighPoint will be the team’s official IT solutions provider.

“Walk around our race shop during the week and the garage area on a race weekend and you’ll see how our race cars and our entire industry relies on technology,” Mike Verlander, SHR’s vice president of sales and marketing, said in a press release. “From engine diagnostics to fuel-mileage calculations, our business is dependent on service and technology solutions. Every company needs what HighPoint provides, and we’ll work diligently to facilitate those introductions.”

2020 Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series schedules

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We’re less than a month away from the start of the 2020 NASCAR season.

While the Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 16, the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season begins in 25 days at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 14.

The schedules for all three national series have big changes in 2020.

Here are some of the changes, including:

  • Miami moves from the end of the season to March 22 for the Cup Series
  • The first Cup race under the lights at Martinsville Speedway (May 9)
  • The first weekend doubleheader for Cup, which occurs at Pocono (June 27-28)
  • The Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis will be held July 5. On July 4, the Xfinity Series race will be held on IMS’ road course.
  • Daytona International Speedway’s summer race shifts to August 29 and will be the final Cup race of the regular season.
  • The Xfinity Series returns to Martinsville Speedway for the first time since 2006 on Oct. 31.
  • The Truck Series returns to Richmond Raceway for the first time since 2005 on April 18.
  • Darlington Raceway hosts the opening race of the Cup playoffs on September 6.

And there’ll be a new site for the championship races for all three series — Phoenix Raceway from Nov. 6-8.

NBC will air Cup races at Indianapolis (July 5), Daytona (Aug. 29), Talladega (Oct. 4), Charlotte Roval (Oct. 11), Kansas (Oct. 18), Martinsville (Nov. 1) and Phoenix (Nov. 8).

Here’s how the schedules for all three series look for 2020:

2020 NASCAR Cup Series Schedule

Date Location Network Start Time Radio
Sun., Feb. 9 Daytona 500 Qualifying FOX 12:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Feb. 9 Busch Clash at Daytona FS1 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Thurs., Feb. 13 Gander RV Duel at Daytona FS1 7:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Feb. 16 Daytona 500 FOX 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Feb. 23 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FOX 3:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 1 Auto Club Speedway FOX 3:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 8 Phoenix Raceway FOX 3:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 15 Atlanta Motor Speedway FOX 2:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 22 Homestead-Miami Speedway FOX 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 29 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Apr. 5 Bristol Motor Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Apr. 19 Richmond Raceway FOX 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Apr. 26 Talladega Superspeedway FOX 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., May 3 Dover International Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 9 Martinsville Speedway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 16 All-Star Open FS1 7:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 16 All-Star Race FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., May 24 Charlotte Motor Speedway FOX 6:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., May 31 Kansas Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 7 Michigan International Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 14 Sonoma Raceway FS1 3:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 21 Chicagoland Speedway NBCSN 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 27 Pocono Raceway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 28 Pocono Raceway NBCSN 3:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jul. 5 Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBC 3:30 p.m. IMS/SiriusXM
Sat., Jul. 11 Kentucky Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jul. 19 New Hampshire Motor Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Aug. 9 Michigan International Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Aug. 16 Watkins Glen International NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Aug. 23 Dover International Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 29 Daytona International Speedway NBC 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Sept. 6 Darlington Raceway NBCSN 6:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Sept. 12 Richmond Raceway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Sept. 19 Bristol Motor Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Sept. 27 Las Vegas Motor Speedway NBCSN 7:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Oct. 4 Talladega Superspeedway NBC 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Oct. 11 Charlotte Motor Speedway NBC 2:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Oct. 18 Kansas Speedway NBC 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Oct. 25 Texas Motor Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Nov. 1 Martinsville Speedway NBC 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Nov. 8 Phoenix Raceway NBC 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM

 

2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series Schedule

Date Location Network Start Time Radio
Sat., Feb. 15 Daytona International Speedway FS1 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Feb. 22 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FS1 4:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Feb. 29 Auto Club Speedway FS1 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 7 Phoenix Raceway FS1 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 14 Atlanta Motor Speedway FS1 4:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 21 Homestead-Miami Speedway FS1 3:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 28 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 1:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Apr. 4 Bristol Motor Speedway FS1 1:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Apr. 25 Talladega Superspeedway FS1 1:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 2 Dover International Speedway FS1 1:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 23 Charlotte Motor Speedway FS1 1:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 30 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course FS1 1:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 6 Michigan International Speedway FS1 1:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 13 Iowa Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 20 Chicagoland Speedway NBCSN 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 28 Pocono Raceway NBCSN 12:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jul. 4 Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBC 1:30 p.m. IMS/SiriusXM
Fri., Jul. 10 Kentucky Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jul. 18 New Hampshire Motor Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 1 Iowa Speedway CNBC 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 8 Road America CNBC 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 15 Watkins Glen International NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 22 Dover International Speedway NBCSN 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Aug. 28 Daytona International Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Sept. 5 Darlington Raceway NBC 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Sept. 11 Richmond Raceway NBCSN 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Sept. 18 Bristol Motor Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Sept. 26 Las Vegas Motor Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 10 Charlotte Motor Speedway NBC 3:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 17 Kansas Speedway NBC 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 24 Texas Motor Speedway NBC 3:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 31 Martinsville Speedway NBCSN 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Nov. 7 Phoenix Raceway NBCSN 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM

2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Schedule

Date Location Network Start Tim Radio
Fri., Feb. 14 Daytona International Speedway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Feb. 21 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 14 Atlanta Motor Speedway FS1 1:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Mar. 20 Homestead-Miami Speedway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Mar. 27 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Apr. 18 Richmond Raceway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., May 1 Dover International Speedway FS1 5:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., May 15 Charlotte Motor Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 30 Kansas Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Jun. 5 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Jun. 12 Iowa Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Jun. 19 Chicagoland Speedway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 27 Pocono Raceway FS1 12:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Thurs., Jul. 9 Kentucky Speedway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Thurs., Jul. 30 Eldora Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 8 Michigan International Speedway FS1 1:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Aug. 21 World Wide Technology Raceway

at Gateway

FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Sept. 6 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park FS1 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Thurs., Sept. 17 Bristol Motor Speedway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Sept. 25 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 3 Talladega Superspeedway FS1 1:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Oct. 30 Martinsville Speedway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Nov. 6 Phoenix Raceway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM