Since the 2004 Daytona 500, one thing has been consistent in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Kasey Kahne has competed in every race. When the checkered flag waves at Homestead in November, that will be no more.
In a tweet sent out by Kahne on Thursday morning, he announced he’d be stepping away from full-time NASCAR competition at the conclusion of the 2018 season. It comes in a year where the veteran driver competes for Leavine Family Racing, one of the underfunded teams in the Cup Series.
Through the opening 23 races of 2018, Kahne has a best finish of fourth in July at Daytona, his only top 10 of the season. The No. 95 team sits 28th in the championship standings, but the decision to retire didn’t come out of nowhere.
“It has been on my mind for a while. Truthfully, the last two years at Hendrick and then the year here at LFR [Leavine Family Racing] just like as far as competition, I haven’t been as competitive as what I want to be,” Kahne said in a press conference on Friday (Aug. 17) morning at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I would say over the last three, four months it’s started being on my mind, like man, do I need to find other things to do and think of other things to do.
“I just finally made that decision. But it’s definitely been there for a few months. I would say this year and LFR is working very hard to make improvements even get better from where we are at right now and that was exciting to me. It kept me in it a little bit longer, but then I finally just decided that it is time to do something different.”
Prior to pairing with LFR at the beginning of 2018, Kahne had spent the prior six seasons with Hendrick Motorsports, one of the Goliaths in NASCAR. He recorded six wins in those years, four of which came in the first 57 races together.
Meanwhile, at Watkins Glen in 2017, Kahne was “fired,” though having one-year left on his contract with Hendrick Motorsports, meaning he didn’t have to race in 2018 and still would have been paid. Instead, he joined LFR, an opportunity he cherished.
“I thought this year with a new team kind of a new outlook, small team, that opportunity that Bob Leavine [owner] gave me that was exciting to me going into the season,” Kahne said. “At the end of last year, it was actually kind of mid-August when we first started talking and it was going to be fresh, new, something different. It was exciting to me so I wanted to give it one more shot with a different group and a different company and I did that.”
Over the past month, Kahne and LFR had been discussing a possible contract extension, but ultimately the Washington native turned down a two-year deal. It was also reported by Motorsport.com, he turned down a chance to be a candidate for the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing machine in 2019.
“I had received over the last month and just options that we could talk about, things like that,” Kahne said. “It felt really good to have that, but at the same time it wasn’t necessarily about that anymore and I didn’t feel that I could seriously race all of next year and be completely committed 100 percent and I feel like there are guys out there that can be and that should have those opportunities over me at this point.”
Kahne admitted he loves NASCAR and will continue to support the sport, but his time as a full-time competitor is over, though didn’t rule out running “40-50” World of Outlaw Sprint Car races next season.
Heading into the Bristol night race, Kahne has 18 career victories in 527 starts at the Cup level. His last came at the Brickyard 400 in 2017, clinching a spot into the playoffs, where he would finish 15th in the championship standings. Despite not winning a championship, he’s satisfied with his career.
“I would love to win a championship,” he mentioned. “I would love to have 30 race wins. But, that didn’t happen and I’m fine with that. And I feel like the things that did have been great. I got to basically make a run and live in an awesome time in NASCAR until now and it feels great to be a part of NASCAR, for sure.”