Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – CONCORD, NC – Not even Kasey Kahne himself could’ve predicted the rollercoaster ride that has been his 2021 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series campaign.
It’s been the busiest season of his career with The Greatest Show on Dirt, and it was all on accident.
By the conclusion of the NGK/NTK World Finals next week (Nov. 4-6) at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, Kahne will have surpassed 30+ starts with the Series this year, his most with the Outlaws since 1999 in his younger pre-NASCAR days.
The year started as a fill-in driver for his own Kasey Kahne Racing #9 while Australian James McFadden was overseas for the birth of his little boy, Maverick. After substantial time off through spring/summer, another out-of-the-blue event brought Kahne back full-time to finish the season in the Roth Motorsports #83 in August.
For as unforeseen as his season has gone, it’s still been a rather solid and fun year for Kahne. He’s had his moments of greatness such as a QuickTime and eighth-place finish at the Knoxville Nationals, two pole positions, leading laps at The Rev, a brilliant 23rd-to-fifth run at Magnolia, and a night contending for a Gold Cup title.
“Everything was definitely unexpected this year,” Kahne said. “It’s been a good kind of unexpected, though. I’ve enjoyed racing at this level so much again and I’d like to do more. It was nice to be in my car earlier this year and just get a feel to actually work hand-in-hand with my guys at the track. Finishing the year with a team like Roth, who was a part of my early career has been really cool.”
And that’s only his time behind the cockpit, it’s been another banner year for him as an owner at Kasey Kahne Racing.
With four races remaining, the organization is poised to clinch a third consecutive World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship, something that only Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing and Karl Kinser have ever achieved in the owner’s role.
The NAPA Auto Parts #49 remains the flagship program with Brad Sweet at the wheel and Eric Prutzman making the calls, but it was the entirety of KKR stepping up as the Mooresville, NC-based program returned to a two-car operation in 2021 with James McFadden and crew chief Justin Adams on the Karavan Trailers #9.
Through 76 events, KKR has collected 18 victories and should sweep the championship with Sweet and Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year award with McFadden. Along with Sweet’s Silver Cup score, KKR put both cars inside the top-seven at the Knoxville Nationals and led laps at Eldora’s Kings Royal.
As for what’s next for Kahne the driver, it’s hard to tell specifically because of KKR’s monumental success.
“Hopefully I’ll have some answers on 2022 soon,” Kahne added. “I’d like to figure it out pretty quick, but James has been doing such a great job in the #9 car. We’ve put a lot of hard work in to get that car back to being a top-tier team on tour and they’ve really been there these last few months.”
One thing for sure is no answers are needed in the #49 camp as Sweet and Prutzman approach a third-straight title. It’s a dynasty that Kahne is proud of, especially after working so hard for so long to build one.
“The combination between the driver, the crew chief, and the team is so much more difficult to find than people realize,” Kahne continued. “Brad, Eric, Joey [Mooney], and Andrew [Bowman] have hit on something together, they’re a perfect unit. You know Daryn [Pittman] and Kale [Kahne] were able to get that one title and Joey [Saldana] and Willie [Kahne] was so close to it as well, but it’s tough to win these championships.”
Kahne’s Roth #83 and the two KKR cars still have four races remaining with a doubleheader at Lawton (OK) Speedway on October 29 and Devil’s Bowl (TX) Speedway on October 30 leading into the season-ending NGK/NTK World Finals on November 4-6.