Editor’s note: Eighteen drivers are guaranteed to start in the May 22 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, which will be televised live on SPEED, starting at 7 pm Eastern. Following is the ninth of 18 profiles of those drivers locked into the field.
Looking for a guy to wager a bet on for the 2010 Sprint All-Star Race?
Try Kasey Kahne.
With the lone possible exception of Jimmie Johnson, no driver has been more stellar at All-Star host Charlotte Motor Speedway in recent years than the driver of the red No. 9 car.
Boasting a CMS record that would impress even the most hardened critic, Kahne has been the epitome of excellence at the 1.5-mile track in Concord, N.C.
He has three wins in his last eight points-paying starts at Charlotte and has finished worse than eighth only once over that stretch. Kahne hasn’t been quite as daunting in the All-Star race, scoring just two top-10s in six starts, but he’s shown flashes of greatness in the always-wacky exhibition event, too.
One of those top-10s was his unforgettable 2008 win that came after being voted into the race by the fans and then starting shotgun on the 24-car field.
Will Kahne be the one they’re all chasing again this year when the All-Star race rolls to town on May 22?
Don’t bet against it.
“It actually gives me a lot of confidence just anytime we race at Charlotte. Nationwide or on the Cup side, we’ve always been really fast since I started,” Kahne said. “There’s races that we easily could have won – two or three, probably four or more races - at Charlotte over the last five years, so it’s a track that for some reason fits my driving style and we’re able to figure it out pretty well as a team. Every time I go there I think we have a shot to win, no matter what series it is.”
Unlike a lot of tracks where running well on one occasion is no guarantee of success on another, Kahne has proven to be a consistent frontrunner at CMS.
Changes in weather conditions, track conditions and tire rules from one race to another haven’t been enough to sidetrack Kahne, who swept the venue's two annual points races in 2006 and has been a paragon of speed at the high-banked quad-oval ever since.
He followed up his All-Star win in ’08 with a victory the following weekend in the Coca-Cola 600 at CMS and has finished no worse than seventh in three points races since.
“I can look for the same thing there each time working with my team, with [crew chief] Kenny Francis,” Kahne said. “We keep working on the same stuff each time to run good there. … It’s just every race. We either win it or run second, it seems like every time we go there, top three unless something happens, so it’s a great track for us.”
Kahne would be hard-pressed to find a time when the chips fell more in his favor than the night of his All-Star win.
The Enumclaw, Wash., native finished just fifth in the preliminary Sprint Showdown race and showed no signs of being poised to whip a field stacked with the sport’s biggest stars.
But after getting voted into the race, Kahne was a new man.
He moved forward in a hurry, led for the first time with 17 laps to go and cruised to the victory.
Kahne is the only wild-card entry to capture the All-Star race in the six-year history of the fan vote.
“To win after they voted us in was something that hadn’t happened and may not happen again,” said Kahne, who recently revealed his intentions to leave Richard Petty Motorsports at season’s end in preparation for a 2012 move to Hendrick Motorsports.
“So to me it just goes back to that. It was highly talked about because of that and still is now a few years later because the fans voted us in and we started from the back and won. So I think it was a huge, huge moment in my NASCAR career and hopefully we can win another one. I think that race, it’s a great race and it’s a ton of fun to be part of, and we want to win more.”