Senior staff writer
Defending Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne admitted that he was the most exhausted he had ever been after capturing the 400-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Totally exhausted,” Kahne said during the NASCAR Media Tour at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I’ve been pretty bad after some races, but not at that level. It was tough. I don’t think I’ve ever been that dehydrated for sure. I was so worn out (because) of how hot it is.”
Kahne’s latter comment is one of the reasons that drivers welcome the new date of Sept. 9. The 400 is the final event to determine the 16-driver field for The Chase.
“Moving the race will give the fans an opportunity to enjoy it without the heat,” Kahne said. “The cars were hot; it was so hot and humid outside. So to move it and hopefully give some of these fans trying to watch a NASCAR race an opportunity to maybe enjoy it. I think it’s a good thing.”
Kahne said he believes that drivers who have not qualified for The Chase won’t be at a disadvantage because the setups at Indy are similar to Richmond (Va.) Speedway, which previously held the last race to set the field for The Chase.
The 400 was Kahne’s only Cup win last year in his final season with Hendrick Motorsports. He was replaced by rookie William Byron.
“To win Indy was nice,” Kahne said. “I’d been close there since I came into the sport, for whatever reason. … Every year we’ve been in the mix. So to finally win it was a great feeling. I’ll carry that win forever because that will be one of my biggest wins I get in racing.”
Kahne searched for a team and wound up with much smaller Leavine Racing and the No. 95 Chevrolet. The team utilizes Richard Childress Racing chassis and Childress Earnhardt Racing engines. He goes into the Daytona 500 with the new Camaro ZL 1
He is unfazed by being with his smallest team since Team Red Bull.
“I love every break that I’ve had in this sport and the opportunities that I’ve had to be part of it for so long,” Kahne said. “And again this year, it’s the same thing. I have a great opportunity.”
The three-time Coca-Cola 600 winner is in his 15th Cup campaign and has had 18 wins and 21 poles in more than 500 starts. The 2004 NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year continues to be among the series’ most poplar drivers.
With so many young drivers competing, Kahne said he believes there are kids who have the same dream that he had of becoming a full-time driver. He recalled being a kid with that same desire. He and his dad on Sundays would get up early, eat breakfast, turn the TV on at 9 a.m. (West Coast) and watch races.
Kahne has raced for the top owners, including the late Robert Yates, Ray Evernham, Richard Petty and Rick Hendrick.
Kahne continues to own a World of Outlaws winged sprint car team with drivers Daryn Pittman and Brad Sweet. Kahne and Pittman won the 2013 WoO title. Kahne plans to race in the first five WoO races in Florida and about 20 more races throughout the season. He also owns USAC midget and sprint cars teams.
“I wish there were more people that were involved and intrigued by it (NASCAR) and wanted to be part of it,” Kahne said. “I wish we could get back to that for the excitement level, but I still think the racing is very good. It’s super competitive.”
Kahne is optimistic he can be competitive even with a small team.