Last year at Phoenix International Raceway, Kasey Kahne admitted that his self-confidence was a part of his struggles in 2013, pointing out to instances of bad luck or mistakes on his part. In 2013, Kahne finished outside the top 30 nine times.
When Kahne arrived on the scene in 2004, NASCAR was on their tiptoes. Who is Kasey Kahne? Could he be the future of the sport? After two consecutive runner-up finishes to Matt Kenseth at Rockingham and Las Vegas, it seemed inevitable that Kahne would break into victory lane at some point, maybe even break Tony Stewart’s all-time rookie win record. It did not happen for him.
Do not get me wrong, Kahne had an incredible rookie season. A season should not always be judged on wins. Kahne had seven top three finishes in his rookie year, while Tony Stewart had six. But, Tony Stewart was able to reach victory circle three times. What was the issue? The issue was putting an entire race together. Trust me, Kahne came so close, so many times. In the last four races of 2004, Kahne had three top fives, all fifth place finishes. Things were looking bright for Kahne entering 2005, despite not making the inaugural chase field.
2005 was not what we expected from Kasey Kahne. Kahne, however, broke into victory lane at Richmond International Raceway for his first career victory, after a fierce battle with Tony Stewart. But, the season was marred with accidents, engine failure, and inconsistency for the most part. Kahne failed to finish in nine races in 2005, with three engine failures and six accidents. Kahne finished 30th or worse in 10 races, and 20th or worse in half of the races run (18).
2006 was a breakout year for Kasey Kahne, an incredible season in regards to victory lane, winning six races. Removing the chase from the equation, Kahne would have finished ninth overall in the standings, given the total amount of points he amassed in 36 events. A driver with six wins usually finishes a lot higher in the standings. Kahne had 12 top fives in 2006, half of them were wins. Kahne, however, also had 10 finishes outside the top 30. Those bad finishes accumulate. As of today, this kind of thing is still an issue for Kahne.
Kasey Kahne is an incredible race car driver. Do not get me wrong, I am not taking a jab at Kahne at all in this piece. On the other hand, the viewers must imagine being in Kasey Kahne’s shoes as well. Anyone will have a confidence drop after many inconsistent finishes. It is inevitable and a part of human nature. But, it takes a great leader to bring up one that is in discomfort.
Take a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins. Talent wise, they have the potential to win the Stanley Cup every year. Dan Bylsma led that team to the Stanley Cup in 2009. Despite the fact that the Penguins have made the playoffs every year since, they have failed to bring another championship to Pittsburgh. What did they do? They fired Bylsma, hired a new GM, and are looking for a fresh start. Maybe the issue is not just with Kahne. Maybe Kahne needs to find a new crew chief. That is not denigrating Kenny Francis at all, but perhaps Kahne needs a fresh start. Despite their relative success together, they have yet to come close to winning a championship. Kahne has championship talent, but team chemistry is vital, especially in this new points structure.
Right now, the 5 team has all the potential in the world. But, it is like a hockey team that has the best skaters in the world, but little to none of those players want to pass the puck around. In this case, the top goal scorer is Kahne, and he is not happy.