Editorial

Kahne Still Hunting For First Win

by Pete McCole

October 20, 2004

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Kasey Kahne

So close, yet so far.

That about sums up Kasey Kahne’s season so far. Once again, Kahne saw his opportunity for his first NASCAR Nextel Cup victory dashed in a shower of sparks despite having a car that was the class of the field.

Kahne was leading Saturday night’s UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway when a cut right-front tire put him in the wall and out of the race on lap 269. He had led four times for 207 laps, and, up until that point, looked untouchable.

For Kahne and his no. 9 UAW/Dodge Dealers team, it was a bitter pill to swallow

Again.

“I think that was the best car I’ve had in my life compared to the rest of the field and how well it handled,” Kahne said following the crash. “We just haven’t been able to finish it off and win a race, but it was definitely a good racecar. It’s really disappointing.”

Even Kahne’s fellow competitors believe Kahne was on his way to a sure victory Saturday.

“He was much faster than anybody,” said Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who finished third on Saturday. “If he hadn’t had his problem, he would have gone to victory lane pretty easily. When he was out of the race, everybody was back into it.”

“I feel for that team,” said race winner Jimmie Johnson. “Those guys have been the class of the field at many races. When they figure out how to make it to the end, they’re going to be awfully tough.”

It’s all a familiar refrain for Kahne and his team - California Speedway, ran out of gas. Dover, crashed while leading. Chicagoland, crashed while leading.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, Kahne has had no luck at all.

In 13 of his 31 starts this season, he’s finishing in the top-15, finishing second five times this season, coming within a few feet of his first victory just two races into his rookie season when Matt Kenseth nipped him at the line at Rockingham.

On the other end of the spectrum, he also has 18 finishes of 20th or worse, including five DNF’s.

If not for those poor finishes, Kahne would be right up there with teammate Jeremy Mayfield as one of the ten drivers in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Instead, he’ll be fortunate to finish 11th in the points.

“You feel like you have such good racecars, so fast, and then something happens and you don’t win the race,” Kahne said. “You can’t blame anybody. You can’t throw things. You just shake it off and go on.”

This week, the Nextel Cup tour moves on to Martinsville, where Kahne finished 21st last April in his only start at the .526-mile facility after blowing a tire in the waning laps.

“Martinsville isn’t necessarily on my list of favorite tracks, but we should run pretty good there – hopefully better than last time,” Kahne said. “I think we could have run 15th last time if we hadn’t had that blown tire.

“Jeremy (Mayfield) tested there earlier this month, and we got some good notes from them. We’ll try to stay focused and see how it goes.”

Despite the fact that Kahne has never started a Nextel Cup race at two of the remaining four tracks, he scored his only NASCAR Busch Series victory last year at Homestead, giving him reason to be optimistic about his chances for a victory.

“We’re really excited about the four races after Martinsville,” said Kahne. “We’re disappointed with Charlotte, but looking forward to those last four races.

Kahne has a solid lead in the rookie of the year battle, and that award would highlight anyone’s season. But with the championship out of their reach for 2004, Kahne and his team have their sights on one goal – a trip to Victory Lane.

“We need to win a race this season, and we need to get another pole and keep working hard,” Kahne said. “We have a lot to shoot for this year, but the biggest thing is to win a race.

“As good as we run on and off we definitely deserve to win sometime. Hopefully it will be before the year is out.”.

The author can be contacted petem@autoracing1.com

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