Brad Sweet

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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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Kyle Larson wins World of Outlaws race; Christopher Bell tumbles

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Kyle Larson scored his first World of Outlaws win of the season after a brief duel for the lead with Christopher Bell on Monday night at Lawrenceburg (Indiana) Speedway.

As they raced side-by-side into Turn 1, Bell’s sprint car jumped the cushion and he hit the wall. The contact caused Bell’s car to go upside down and tumble briefly. Bell finished 22nd in the 24-car field.

“These Outlaw wins are so hard to win,” Larson said, according to the World of Outlaws site. “I mean, you’ve got Bell, leading, he’s one of, if not the best drivers in the country or in the world right now, in open wheel cars. And Donny Schatz, who’s arguably the best in winged sprint cars. So, to beat those two feels really cool.”

Donny Schatz, who drives for Tony Stewart Racing, was second. Giovanni Scelzi placed third. Schatz is the series leader. He has a 48-point lead on Brad Sweet, who drives for Kasey Kahne Racing.

The World of Outlaws next race on Friday at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

 

 

Social Roundup: NASCAR drivers react to Jimmie Johnson, Fernando Alonso car swap

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The car swap between Jimmie Johnson and Fernando Alonso occurred Monday in Bahrain.

Some NASCAR stars took to Twitter to react to the event and they were envious of Johnson’s opportunity.

The smoke from Johnson and Alonso’s doughnuts to end the day had barely cleared before the fantasizing over more car swaps began, spurred on by SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

NASCAR drivers who came from sprint car racing – including sprint car team owners Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson – really want to give their competitors a taste of the dirt racing life.

And Chase Elliott, a former teammate of Kahne’s, had his interest in Kahne’s proposal piqued.

Brad Sweet, who races for Kahne, noted the possibility of such an opportunity occurring is aided by their shared sponsorship.

What car swaps would you want to see? Let us know in the comments.

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Kyle Larson wins A main on opening night of Chili Bowl Nationals

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Kyle Larson continued his winning ways in a midget car, capturing the A main on the opening night of the Chili Bowl Nationals and qualifying for Saturday night’s feature race.

Larson recently returned from New Zealand where he won three of four midget races.

Tuesday night, Larson finished ahead of brother-in-law Brad Sweet and Tyler Courtney. All three advance to Saturday night’s A main on the quarter-mile clay oval inside the River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square.

Justin Allgaier finished 12th in Tuesday night’s race.

Racing continues Wednesday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Among those scheduled to compete are Rico Abreu, who has made 26 career Camping World Truck Series starts, and Donny Schatz, who competes in the World of Outlaws for Tony Stewart Racing.

Earlier in the night, Chad Boat won the Race of Champions exhibition race. Larson was second and Tanner Thorson was third. Sweet finished fifth. Also in the race, Abreu was 10th, reigning Chili Bowl champion Christopher Bell placed 11th, Kasey Kahne 14th and JJ Yeley was last in the 19-car field.

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Kyle Larson highlights NASCAR drivers entered into Chili Bowl Nationals

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The first major auto racing event of 2018 is the 32nd annual Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The midget car event will be held Jan. 9-13 at the River Spirit Expo Center and feature multiple NASCAR drivers, including Kyle Larson.

Larson will be joined by Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., defending Chili Bowl and Truck Series champion Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe and Justin Allgaier.

The entry list for the five-night event has been released and also the roster for all four nights of qualifying races.

The week culminates with the 55-lap championship event on Jan. 13.

Here’s when each NASCAR driver and other notable drivers will compete in a qualifying race.

Tuesday, Jan. 9

Kyle Larson

Chase Briscoe (former Brad Keselowski Racing driver)

Justin Allgaier (JR Motorsports driver in Xfinity Series)

Brad Sweet (competes for Kasey Kahne Racing)

Wednesday, Jan. 10

Rico Abreu (former Camping World Truck Series driver, two-time Chili Bowl winner)

Sammy Swindell (five-time Chili Bowl winner)

Donny Schatz (2017 World of Outlaws champion, competes for Tony Stewart Racing)

Thursday, Jan. 11

Christopher Bell

C.J. Leary (competing in entry owned by Alex Bowman)

Friday, Jan. 12

Kasey Kahne

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

J.J. Yeley

Daryn Pittman (competes for Kasey Kahne Racing)

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