Seth and Sutton Sharp
December 7, 2018
We were blessed to grow up in the mid-90s, with our memories of NASCAR dating back to as early as 1994. It was hard to appreciate everything that we were watching, being so small, but we loved it. As the years went by we saw legends such as Darrell Waltrip and Dave Marcis battling hard just to make the field. Legendary teams, like the one owned by Junior Johnson, also faced the same struggles before folding and leaving the sport. The competitive fire still burns inside of these legends.
When careers finally come to a close, often the lines of success and failure are blurred to the common fan. To two young kids, Waltrip and Marcis were drivers who would never come close to sniffing Victory Lane. As we grew up, we began to realize how great these two drivers were during the peak of their careers. Marcis finished second to Richard Petty in points in 1975. Waltrip was a three-time champion. This was just the very top of the list of their many incredible accomplishments.
To a common fan, or one that is newer to the sport, Kasey Kahne might fall into this category. Heck, even the most intelligent fans might forget how great of a driver he was.
Over his last five Cup Series seasons, Kahne won two races and finished no higher than 15th in the standings. Richard Petty didn’t win a race over his final eight seasons. Waltrip failed to qualify for 13 races over his final two seasons. The window of success doesn’t stay open forever, but this doesn’t make a driver any less successful.
Looking back, it should have been no shock from the start that Kahne would go on to have such a brilliant career. In 2003, his first full season in the Busch Series, he won one race and finished seventh in points.
The following season saw Kahne make the jump to the Cup Series, making his debut in the Daytona 500 for Ray Evernham. The 500 didn’t go as planned for the team, but Kahne followed up the disappointing debut with a second at Rockingham.
He sat on the pole at Las Vegas the following week, led 43 laps and finished second yet again. His success continued at Atlanta, where he finished third. He won another pole, this time at Darlington. Two weeks later, Kahne led 148/334 laps at Texas and finished second, giving him his fourth top-three finish in seven career races.
He finished his rookie campaign with 13 top-five’s and 14 top-10s in 36 races, finishing 13th in points. He also sat on the pole four times. All of his success helped him capture the Rookie of the Year award. In addition to his Cup Series success in 2004, he also won won both Truck Series races he entered, in addition to finishing in the top-10 in almost half of the Busch races he drove.
Kahne broke out in 2006, winning six races, including the Coca-Cola 600. Three of those victories came from the pole. He finished eighth in points. Looking back, Kahne’s career bests for wins, top-10s, poles and laps-led all came that season.
He won at least one race in nine of his 15 Cup Series seasons, while winning at least two races in a season five times. He finished a career best fourth in points in 2012.
When a driver hangs up his helmet for the final time, we need to remember to look back at what made them able to compete and succeed against the best of the best every week for years, instead of focusing on what these drivers didn’t do.
50th all-time in Cup wins. 31 total NASCAR victories. 27th all-time in Cup poles. Three Coca-Cola 600 wins. A Brickyard 400 victory. He’s won at Daytona. Five Truck wins and a second in six career races.
The list of things that Kahne has achieved throughout his NASCAR career is full of accomplishments that most can only dream of. Kasey made these dreams a reality and he deserves all the credit in the world for it.