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If Kasey Kahne was left thinking of 2004 with a vague feeling that something-just some little detail-was missing, nobody would blame him. Kahne and his #9 Evernham Motorsports team achieved almost everything a team and a rookie driver could hope to and more-except for their first win. By the time 2004 was ten races old, Kahne had three second-place finishes, and he went on to post five runner-up finishes on the year.
The Nextel Cup rookie posted some impressive numbers in 2004. Kahne and crew finished the year with fourteen top ten finishes, all but one of which were also top five finishes. He failed to finish five times. The first of Kahne’s second place finishes came at week two in a battle to the line with Matt Kenseth, and the Enumclaw, Washington native did not let up, falling just short of another victory the following week at Las Vegas. No stranger to winning, Kahne can boast a USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year award, and both the USAC Midget Series Champion and Driver of the Year honors. Kahne also has a NASCAR Busch Series victory to his credit from 2003’s season finale at Homestead.
Perhaps the team’s one weak spot in 2004 was a lack of consistency. To go along with their admirable number of top fives are fifteen finishes outside the top twenty. Nine of these came in the first half of the season. In the final ten races, Kahne posted an equal number of top fives-four-and finishes of 27th or lower. Though he had a season-high fourth-place standing in points after the spring race at Atlanta, Kahne narrowly missed the Chase cut, sitting in 12th after the first 26 races. The 24-year-old finished 13th in the final tally, securing the Rookie of the Year title easily.
Kahne’s team was led by veteran crew chief Tom Baldwin Jr. in 2004, and Baldwin returns to the top of the pit box for the 2005 season, and the core of the team stays the same as well. Team owner Ray Evernham has a knack for bringing young drivers along at NASCAR’s top level, and a year of experience at that level for Kahne, who will turn 25 on April 10th, should see the team have a breakout sophomore season.
One change for 2005 will be the new Dodge Chargers which replace the Intrepids this season. The team will still be powered by Evernham Motorsports’ own engines, with the exception of the four restrictor plate tracks, where they’ll run Penske-Jasper power. The team adds Stanley Tools as an associate sponsor.
Don’t look for this team to be satisfied with top-five finishes this year. They want to win races and secure a berth in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. The staff here at the Frontstretch expects Kahne to do both of these in 2005. Although the more experienced drivers still have an edge, we predict an eighth place finish for Kahne,. And at least one trip to Victory Lane.
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