The Frontstretch: Clean Race Speaks Volumes About Kahne's Character by Summer Bedgood -- Monday August 26, 2013

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Clean Race Speaks Volumes About Kahne's Character

Summer Bedgood · Monday August 26, 2013


To call the ending to Saturday night’s Bristol race “controversial” would be … overstated. There really wasn’t a lot of controversy after Bristol, surprisingly enough, and the race was fun to watch. There were lots of race-winning cars, lots of passing and, yes, even some crashing.

However, despite the 500-mile event, it all came down to just one lap. And, man, was it a great one. Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne were in a head to head battle where the two of them were swapping the lead between laps and no one was quite sure who was going to win.

Eventually, it looked like Kenseth had the advantage. Maybe he would cruise to his fifth victory of the year. Kahne, not to be denied, inched ever closer to Kenseth’s back bumper heading to the checkered flag and all of us wondered …. Would he do it?

Would he pull the infamous bump-and-run that was made prevalent at Bristol? Would he punt the driver who had wronged him at Watkins Glen? Was third place Juan Pablo Montoya sitting pretty?

No, no, and no. Though Kahne got within inches of Kenseth’s bumper and probably could have turned him had he wanted to, Kahne ultimately fell short of the victory.

When pressed after the race why he didn’t use the chrome horn similar to Dale Earnhardt’s move on Terry Labonte in 1999, Kahne had this to say:

“At the end of the day I just don’t wreck people.”

Kahne’s full explanation was slightly more revealing: “You know, I’ve always really raced that way. I don’t have any experience doing it for one, and for two, that’s just kind of how I’ve always raced. I think more than anything it’s just discouraging when other guys, like Matt in his case at Watkins Glen, watching that afterwards, all he had to do was lift, and he didn’t because he didn’t want to get passed from behind or whatever the situation was. It wasn’t a mistake like he got loose or anything, he just didn’t lift and wiped us out and those kind of things are discouraging because that’s not how I race, but at the same time, more times than not, Matt races me clean.”

I’m sure there are some out there saying Kahne is a wuss for racing like that and “back in MY day!” rants are in no shortage.

However, Kahne was right not to race Kenseth like that.

First of all, it’s hard to think about the crew guys when the race going on in front of you is as exciting as Saturday night’s race was. Still, there are several crew guys who would have had extra work to do with a potentially wrecked racecar regardless of which driver it was who crashed. There is no reason to destroy the cars when they can finish it up on the racetrack.

Second, there is no cheaper win than that won by simply dumping a guy. When a driver wins a rain-shortened race, it’s credited to Mother Nature. When they win fuel mileage, it’s a credit to the team or the crew chief. Yet when they simply crash the other driver and win, it’s “just racing”.

Why is that? Are we simply desperate for entertainment regardless of the expense?

The fact is, Kenseth won that race fair and square and it would have been much more impressive for Kahne to pass Kenseth cleanly and effectively. Had Kahne won that race by simply bumping Kenseth and moving him out of the way, it would have been a win much less attributed to talent and more to his front bumper. It would have still been a deserved win—he was in second after—but you would have hardly heard anyone say, “Man that Kahne sure is one hell of a driver!”

Instead, Kahne was praised for driving his ass off without taking advantage of Kenseth’s, say, fragile situation. It would have been easy to do and Kahne would have essentially granted himself a Chase spot. It would have been effortless.

But he didn’t and that speaks volumes about his character. Kahne may not have finished first, but good guys don’t always finish last.

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08/26/2013 09:02 AM

I wish there was a way to go back and count how many races Dale Sr. “won” simply by wrecking the guy in front of him. Of course, Nascar let it happen too.

Having cars banging side by side is great racing. ANYBODY can wreck the guy in front. That’s assuming, of course, that you can actually GET TO the guy in front with this fantastic new car.

Carl D.
08/26/2013 12:56 PM

Kasey Kahne can hold his head up high and his runner-up trophy even higher.

08/26/2013 02:47 PM

Maybe he will eventually end up like Mark Martin…the politest driver never to win a championship.

Paul A.
08/26/2013 03:06 PM

250 miles, 500 laps.

08/26/2013 03:49 PM

I have been around long enough to know that Sr. wasn’t a saint, but I dunno, I think again its points racing and not racing today. People cheered and booed him for being a freaking bull in a china shop and plowed over everything(I don’t think that took alot of skill, personally). And here we are in the The Chase era and people are booing Keso and Kahne for not doing it. Confusing.

08/26/2013 05:03 PM

Kb, you’re not the only one who is confused. I remember only too well what an aggressive driver Earnhardt was. He was as dirty as they come, and a lot of it had to do with his attitude of “win at all cost”. Admittedly, he was supposed to have come up the hard way, having to win in order to put food on the table. Still, he drove dirty, which won him a multitude of fans. It was the same with Earnhardt and blocking. Look at how many people applauded Brad Keselowski for putting Carl Edwards nearly into the stands at Talladega for having the audacity to block and protect his position. Earnhardt would have blocked you right into the grass to protect his position! He was the king of blocking! Now, anyone who blocks gets called out for it. Well, everyone except Tony Stewart, who is always shooting off his mouth about blocking, then proceeded to block Michael Waltrip at Talladega and took out half the field. As for Senior, that is why he was called The Intimidator, because he intimidated everyone on the track who knew only too well that Earnhardt would have deliberately wrecked them if he wanted by. I also remember the year Ryan Newman beat Junior to win the All Star Race. Everyone said that, had his dad still been alive, he would have smacked Junior across the head for not wrecking Newman. Now, if any driver drives like that, it brings on such hatred that it’s not funny. Just ask Carl Edwards. Earnhardt was applauded for driving rough, and now, Kasey is applauded because he didn’t. Guess you can’t please everyone!

08/26/2013 06:44 PM

Good point Ken, now I know that I am not the only one confused. Lol.

08/26/2013 06:51 PM

We saw a good race KK raced hard and least he raced. Much better than fuel mileage races when no one races or are in fuel saving mode hoping to make it to the end like last week. Harvick didn’t try to run Joey down knowing he could run out of gas. best races this year were KK and matt actually racing and KK and Gordon at pocono . Takes
Guts to race hard side by side for several laps vs a bump and run

08/26/2013 08:44 PM

heh… good guys finish second…

or worse