Sometimes you just don’t get that Hollywood ending. No victory laps, no farewell tours, it just ends. For every Jeff Gordon, there is a Kasey Kahne.
Health problems pertaining to dehydration have abruptly ended the career of the 38-year old from Enumclaw, Washington. He says he’s perfectly fine outside of the conditions of a race car, but something goes terribly wrong in the cockpit of a closed-up NASCAR race car. It’s like the poor man has a busted thermostat.
It’s weird. Kahne is otherwise fine. Let’s also not forget this is a guy who has without difficulty competed alongside pal Jimmie Johnson in triathlon events. The man is no invalid. Perhaps, like me, you know someone who just can’t take the heat. From a pure racing point of view, it is simply hastening the departure from NASCAR racing of a character who has enjoyed a fair career.
Early on, Kahne looked like he was headed for major stardom. In 2004, he came on strong with solid finishes, barely missing the Chase, edged out by then-teammate Jeremy Mayfield. After one victory in 2005, Kasey Kahne followed in 2006 with six victories. With his wins and his all-American boy good looks, he became a media darling. He was all over NASCAR’s TV commercial landscape, appearing in spots for Vitamin Water, Allstate, and Nextel.
He really wasn’t able to find a way to stay on top. Kahne went on to win ten more races, but never more than two in season. Though he made the Chase/playoffs five times, Kasey Kahne was never a bone fide championship contender.
To be fair, Evernham Racing became Evernham-Gillette, and the result was getting bounced around on middling teams for a while. Then came Hendrick Motorsports.
HMS- during Kahne’s tenure- was still considered the New York Yankees of NASCAR. Imagine racing among the likes of Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. The move was not magic as he won six races between 2012 and 2017. With each succeeding year, Kasey Kahne was becoming less and less relevant.
No one here is saying that Kasey Kenneth Kahne doesn’t have talent. His most ardent fans know he has considerable talents in open wheel racing, and he will pursue opportunities in what some call “roots racing.” The open cockpits should help him avoid the overheating issues has has been experiencing.
Kasey Kahne will be like those athletes in other sports who had a couple of all-star caliber seasons, and was good enough to merit attention. By the same token, he is no Hall of Famer. There’s no shame in that. Not everybody gets to go, nor should they. No one’s saying he was a failure, but no one’s saying he was the best of the best either.
By all accounts, Kasey Kahne is a good guy. Here’s hoping he’ll find fulfillment racing when he wants to instead of when he has to. With that having been said, we will always wonder a bit about this condition dogging him now, and what might have been if things had played a little differently.