Unlike most modern-day drivers, Kasey Kahne didn’t start his racing career in the womb. The late bloomer started competing in midget cars at 14, an age when Jeff Gordon was starting his first 401K. Kahne wasted no time once he got behind the wheel. He captured his first local championship at 16.
Just six years later, in 2002, Kahne found himself running a part-time schedule in the Nationwide Series. He captured the attention of Ray Evernham by winning one race and gathering 14 top-tens on his way to a seventh-place points finish in 2003. Evernham quickly signed the prodigy for the 2004 Sprint Cup season.
After working with Jeff Gordon for 10 years, Evernham knew raw talent when he saw it and Kahne had talent. For the most part, however, he failed to live up to the standard set by Gordon. (In all fairness, who could?) Kahne didn’t win his first race until 2005, but he followed up with a very respectable six wins in 2006. He suffered a winless season in 2007 and scored two victories in 2008, then grabbed his first road course victory at Sonoma in 2009.
Ten victories in less than five years aren’t too shabby, but we can’t help but think he would do better with a different ride. Every driver can’t be a Jimmie Johnson or a Kyle Busch, and not every team can be a Hendrick or a Gibbs. Sometimes it’s a matter of having the right combination of driver and team that makes all the difference. Kahne has done more with the former Evernham Dodge team than any other driver, so we believe he would be running right up there with Johnson and Busch if only he had better equipment to work with.
One thing that makes us admire Kahne even more (and hate him a little as well) is his reputation with the ladies.