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.
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.”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
Kahne is scheduled to make more than 50 starts in sprint car races next year in the World of Outlaws and All-Star Circuit of Champions with his own sprint car team.
The news is part of a sponsor announcement that will have Kahne and Kasey Kahne Racing’s No. 9 car sponsored by Wicked Energy Gum/Wicked Energy in select races.
“This is the most excited I have been in a long time to get back to racing,” Kahne said in a press release. “I feel great and I’ve been working out a lot preparing for the upcoming season. Returning to sprint cars on a more regular basis is something that I have been looking forward to for years.”
Hope to add some more races in PA and Ohio in April as well as west coast races late in the year. @dirtclassic and Tuscarora 50 I also really want to race. I’ll add as we can. Thanks everyone https://t.co/XT8VHTxwvk
Kyle Larson used a late-race charge to win Tuesday night’s World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series race at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway.
Larson passed Daryn Pittman, who drives for Kasey Kahne‘s team, with two laps to go to win. Larson was racing for a team co-owned by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Shane Stewart, who drives for the team co-owned by Larson and Justin Marks, finished third. Brad Sweet, who drives for Kasey Kahne Racing, placed fourth. Donny Schatz, who drives for Tony Stewart Racing, finished fifth.
Larson was second in qualifying to Kerry Madsen and won his heat race.
The feature victory is Larson’s first of the season.