|Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs|
Kahne has experienced spotty success in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Since debuting in Cup at the end of 2003 Kahne has had controversy and problems plaque him. Hired to replace Bill Elliot in the No. 9 Dodge that year, Ford was outraged and filed a lawsuit as Kahne was under contract to them. By paying Ford, Kahne was able to go to Dodge.
The next year, 2004, Kahne impressed as he earned five second-place finishes and 13 top-fives. He handily walked away with the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award.
Kahne found Victory Lane in 2005 in the Cup series when he took the checkered flag for the Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
The following year, in 2006, Kahne won again, this time at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Golden Corral 500. Less than a month later he was celebrating his win at Texas Motor Speedway for the Samsung/Radio Shack 500.
Kahne also collected wins at Charlotte, Michigan, and Fontana. In the last race before the Chase held at Richmond that year, Kahne drove his way into the Chase in the 10th and last position. Although Kahne won at Charlotte during the Chase – his second victory there that season – a terrible crash at Dover swept Kahne’s championship chances away and he placed eighth for the season.
A lackluster year in 2007 found Kahne looking for but never achieving any wins. It was a tough season especially after the banner year he enjoyed in 2006.
By 2008 Kahne had Budweiser aboard as his new sponsor which breathed new life into the driver. Kahne’s fans voted him into the All-Star Race at Charlotte that year as he did not earn his place there. In a dramatic fashion Kahne did not waste the fan vote; he won the entire All-Star Race, a first for someone voted in by the fans! He left the venue more than one million dollars wealthier.
The following week, riding his momentum, Kahne also won the marathon Coca-Cola 600. This was the first points win for Kahne since 2006.
A victory at Pocono followed. Bad luck ensued, however, and Kahne once again missed the Chase.
Change was afoot in 2010. Richard Petty Motorsports merged with Yates Racing and led to a manufacturer change to Ford. Kahne was trying all year to produce wins but race after race results were disappointing, frustrating, and off. By October of 2010 RPM released Kahne from his contract effective immediately. Directly after, it was announced Kahne would finish the season with Red Bull Racing Team and drive for them in 2011 as well.
Kahne’s tenure with Red Bull Racing Team was truly one of transition. Much was being done to prepare Kahne for his move to Hendrick Motor Sports in 2012. He did not make the Chase. Kahne did whip off a late season win at Phoenix, his only win of the season and his first victory in over two years.
At the beginning of this season it seemed Kahne couldn’t do much right in his new ride with HMS. But as late spring arrived Kahne returned to Charlotte and captured the win at the Coca-Cola 600 posting his first win with his new team. Another win followed weeks later at Loudon, New Hampshire.
Two wins were enough to make Kahne eligible for the 2012 Chase for the Wild Card slot. He started the Chase in 11th heading into Chicago. Coming out of Chicago with a third is a strong way to begin the Chase.
Kahne was never my driver, but friends of mine have been staunch fans from the beginning staying with him during team changes, scandals, and winless streaks. He is a good speaker, a fine racer, and an interesting personality to follow.
Kahne’s looks are enough to hurt his image as a successful racecar driver in the NASCAR Cup series. Like Jeff Gordon before, looks overshadow racing prowess and skill. Gordon did much to erase that stigma by winning myriad races and multiple championships. Kahne has yet to meet his full potential. It seems this season could be a good shot for converting a strong season into a championship one.
Regardless of whether he wins the Cup this season or not, Kahne is a fun driver to watch compete in the series, a good-looking man and yet another reason why I love NASCAR.
Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.