2007 Ride: No. 9 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge
2007 Primary Sponsor: Dodge Dealers Lifetime Powertrain Warranty/UAW
2007 Owner: Ray Evernham
2007 Crew Chief: Kenny Francis
Stats: 36 races, zero wins, one top five, eight top 10s, 19th in points.
High Point: You wouldn’t think it would be that hard to find a high point for Kahne – one of the bright young stars of the Cup Series – but 2007 was pretty dismal. Kahne went winless, scoring his lone top five at the Bristol night race in August. At least he can take some consolation from the fact that it wasn’t a fluke; for that race, at least, he looked like the Kasey Kahne everyone expected for ’07, leading 305 of 500 laps after starting from the pole.
Low Point: So many choices here, where do we start? Perhaps the shock and surprise to start out the season would be the lowest. Kahne scored a top 10 to open the season at Daytona and assumed it would be business as usual this season. He’d be sadly mistaken; it became apparent in just a few weeks that this year would not go the way the team hoped, as the next three runs resulted in finishes of 35th or worse. Kahne didn’t see the top 10 again until Daytona in July – a 17-race gap.
Summary: From the penthouse to the outhouse would sum this year up nicely for Kahne. You have to know that after making the Chase in 2006, they never expected to battle to hang onto the Top 35 in 2007 – but that’s about the way it shaped up. Kahne opened the season with a top 10, then didn’t score another until the series returned to Daytona in July. In between, he scored six finishes of 30th or worse – falling from surefire Chase contender to simply trying to retain a Top-35 qualifying exemption.
The second half of the year was a little better. There were only five more finishes of 30th or worse, but perhaps the indicator that things are moving back in the right direction is that Kahne scored six top 10s and one top five – a nice second-place run at Bristol – in the second half of the season. Three of those top 10s were consecutive, as consistency attempted a return to the program to boost Kahne up to 19th in points.
If there is any consolation for his fans this season – it wasn’t only Kahne. The entire Evernham organization struggled mightily this year, resulting in a cash infusion from new owner George Gillett in July. Is it a coincidence that the old boss (Evernham) spent most of the season trying to line up a deal that would bring a financial backer with more resources to the table? Probably not.
2008 Outlook: If there were financial struggles at Evernham for 2007, hopefully the addition of a big-money partner combined with what has to be a lucrative new sponsorship for Kahne from Budweiser will put the resources this team needs in place for 2008. A nice added bonus for fans of Kahne, they don’t even need to change colors as their driver hits the track in Budweiser red this season. It can’t get much worse for this team, so you have to think the only way to go is up. The only problem is, in this sport it takes only one season to lose momentum – but it seems to take a lot longer to get it back and return to front-running form.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: B
2007 Grade: D
Editor’s Note: The 2007 season is over, and even the Final Chase exam has come to a close – which means it’s time to give each driver their annual year-end evaluation. For the second straight year, your favorite Frontstretch staff members are giving driver reviews for every full-time wheelman on the circuit, giving you insight into the seasons of anyone from AJ Allmendinger to JJ Yeley.