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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Is This It for Kasey Kahne?

Will Kasey Kahne race again in MENCS competition?

On Wednesday, it was announced by Leavine Family Racing that Kasey Kahne would not be able to race this weekend and that Regan Smith would once again race the No. 95 Chevrolet as a subsitute driver.

Kahne has been out since after the Southern 500 last month at Darlington Raceway, where he suffered from severe dehydration problems in the last 100 laps.

If Darlington ends up being the last time Kahne races in the Cup Series, it’s in some ways a sad allegory of his career. Kahne was super in 2006, winning six races and making a name for himself as the next big thing in NASCAR. But 2007-2010 was largely seen as a disappointment; Ray Evernham was first embroiled in an embarrassing controversy with Erin Crocker, then sold half of the team to notoriously bad sports team owner George Gillett. Kahne struggled to make the playoffs, 2008 being the only time he did so in those four years.

Just to add to the dysfunction within the organization, an economic crash forced a merger with Petty Enterprises to become Richard Petty Motorsports. Evernham exited stage left (and getting a pretty sweet return on his initial investment), and the team struggled in 2009 and 2010. Kahne had to spend a year with a lame duck Red Bull Racing team, before finally getting his shot with Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.

Kahne’s tenure at Hendrick was not a complete disappointment, but it was not the long-term success either party wanted it to be. If Kahne hadn’t been signed long term to Evernham all the way through 2010 and instead jumped over to Hendrick to replace Brian Vickers or Casey Mears in 2007/2008, he probably would have found much more success rather than wasting nearly half a decade of his career on dysfunctional teams.

This injury Kahne is suffering from, like the above scenarios, is just terrible luck and may end up cutting his final season in Cup short. He’s had a decent career, but it could have been so much more. Both he and A.J. Allmendinger‘s career trajectories show that it’s not smart at all for a driver to enter a long-term contract with any team, and why nobody in the field today has, or should-ever sign a lifetime contract like Jeff Gordon did with Hendrick.

Is Jimmie Johnson done competing for championships?

Not only is Jimmie Johnson out of this years playoffs, he might just be done competing for championships.

It’s not very often we’ve seen Johnson not look at the big picture. He’s always tried to win races, but never to the extent of taking himself out of the championship hunt like he did on Sunday.

I said as recently as last week to never count out the No. 48 team. But this year, and at the ROVAL, it’s getting harder and harder to justify that statement. Johnson had a slow start to the season and has never really recovered from it.

Charlotte was Johnson’s fault, but they probably shouldn’t have even been in that situation to begin with. Johnson isn’t really that washed up as a driver just yet, but it definitely feels like crew chief Chad Knaus might be. Crew chiefs do not typically have a long career prime; there are exceptions, but in the modern era, we’re talking about maybe 10 years before the cars start passing them by.

When was the last time Johnson had a Jimmie Johnson esque weekend — where he unloaded fast and led the bulk of laps? Or when was the last time Knaus had this great call on pit road that put them into position to steal a race win?

I don’t doubt that they’re going to eventually get some more race wins. But can this combination of Johnson and Knaus really beat Martin Truex Jr. and Cole Pearn on a consistent basis now? Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers? How about Brad Keselowski and Paul Wolfe, who have already beaten them for a championship head-to-head? Or even Chase Elliott and Alan Gustafson, who have been outpacing them all year? If Johnson is going to win that eighth championship in the future, he’s going to have to move on from Knaus.

Who will make it into the next round of the XFINITY Series playoffs?

It’s a complete travesty that Ross Chastian has to drive for JD Motorsports this weekend after being so impressive with his runs with Chip Ganassi Racing over the past month.

Nothing against owner Johnny Davis, but that JDM car is going up against some really strong competition this week, and with Chastian on the bubble, he’s going to need all the help he can get at Dover.

Chastian is currently eighth in points, just nine points ahead of Austin Cindric (Team Penske), 24 ahead of Ryan Truex (Kaulig Racing… which is an RCR affiliate), 25 ahead of Ryan Reed (Roush Fenway Racing) and 28 ahead of Brandon Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing). Outside of Truex, these are all teams with huge budgets, and any of them could conceivably win and knock Chastian out even if they can’t outpoint him.

Just two points ahead of Chastian is Justin Allgaier. But Allgaier is entering one of his best racetracks — one where he just won at in the spring. Dover can sometimes be a car grinder; it is the Monster Mile after all. But as long as Allgaier can escape carnage, he should be able to enter the next round even if he can’t win the race. Elliott Sadler is tied with Allgaier in points and is going to need to have a decent finish on Saturday to keep his championship hopes alive.

This is going to be an interesting cut-off race. With non-playoff driver Chase Briscoe winning at the ROVAL, only Christopher Bell is locked into the next round thanks to winning at Richmond. Everybody else is within 30 points of Cindric — easily possible for anybody to be knocked out if they have to go home early.

What does the future hold for Daniel Suarez now? 

The last time Cup Series raced at Dover in May, Daniel Suarez finished a then career-high third, and it seemed like he had a bright future ahead of him with Joe Gibbs Racing.

In October, Suarez will return to Dover looking for a job.

With Martin Truex Jr.’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing all but announced and Daniel Hemric officially named the driver of the No. 31 last week, the most viable place Suarez could go to would be Stewart-Haas Racing.

But if the rumor that ARRIS can’t leave JGR due to contracts is true, it’s unlikely Suarez could go over there without finding a replacement for ARRIS. Which is pretty hard to do… in August. It’s October now, and it’s going to get harder and harder for Suarez to find funding to get in that seat.

The only other ride open that Suarez could go to and not see a massive drop off in performance might be Leavine Family Racing, especially if Leavine can work out a deal with their new Toyota partners JGR to bring over the current No. 19 crew next year.

Regardless of what happens, it’s going to be hard not to pick up Suarez for fantasy this week. He’s got to be driving with a chip on his shoulder after these last couple of months, and Dover has been his best racetrack in Cup. His average finish of 5.7 at the Monster Mile is second, only to Chase Elliott among active drivers.

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1 thought on “4 Burning Questions: Is This It for Kasey Kahne?”

  1. Ray and that ugly buck toothed wonder. No consequences, imo. Ray is still considered “royalty” IT SEEMS!. Shows how sick the little insular world of NASCAR really is, imo of course! Sad for the people who relied on his business for their lively hood and lost. My opinion!

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