Kasey Kahne Hungry for Chili Bowl victory TULSA, OKLAHOMA (January 11, 2008) - With one of NASCAR's top rides at his disposal and a USAC National Midget Championship trophy on his mantel, Kasey Kahne has certainly had a career to be proud of,...
Kasey Kahne Hungry for Chili Bowl victory
TULSA, OKLAHOMA (January 11, 2008) - With one of NASCAR's top rides at his disposal and a USAC National Midget Championship trophy on his mantel, Kasey Kahne has certainly had a career to be proud of, even at age 27. But as this January unfolds, Kahne's thoughts increasingly turn to an event he hasn't won: the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.
The Chili Bowl, being held this week on a specially constructed indoor dirt track at the Tulsa QuikTrip Center, will draw its usual sellout crowds. For the first time, those unable to attend Saturday night's main events can watch a live pay-per-view telecast. Kahne figures to be among the favorites for the "Golden Driller," the coveted trophy awarded to the Chili Bowl's A-Main winner on the final evening Well, that's not quite accurate. See, Kahne figures to be the man to beat, starting with tonight's qualification feature that Kahne's Mopar Midget is scheduled to run.
"I'm taking the trophy this year," Kahne says.
The popular driver from Enumclaw, Wash., who will steer the Budweiser Dodge #9 fielded by Gillett Evernham Motorsports on this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup trail, cut his teeth on the dirt tracks of his native Northwest before moving to Indiana in 1999 to make his way as a professional race car driver. Success came soon enough: The very next season, he won that USAC Midget title, in the process capturing the first of two consecutive victories in the hugely prestigious Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas. Even before his 21st birthday, Kahne was regarded as one of the top Midget drivers in the land.
Of driving Midgets on dirt tracks, Kahne says, "It's more mental than physical. I think focus is the thing. Hit your marks every lap, don't overdrive the car, don't run over the guy in front of you. One of the Belleville [races] I won, I had my right-rear tire about a foot off the wall for the entire race. In the other one, I was actually touching the wall through [turns] three and four, every lap, all night. Wide open."
And "hitting your marks" on a dirt track, he declares, is a much more difficult task than it appears. "Don't forget, you're sliding to that mark every lap. I mean, if you're trying to run six inches off the wall, you've got to slide first just to get there."
His technique won him dirt-tack races from coast to coast before he climbed the ladder to NASCAR. But he has never stood in Victory Lane after the Chili Bowl, a fact that brings him back to Tulsa whenever his NASCAR testing schedule and his jammed-packed calendar of personal appearances will allow.
Kasey says of the Chili Bowl, "It's fun! There's a lot going on. Tons of cars, tons of drivers. It's just exciting. It's cool to be a part of."
He first attended the Chili Bowl as a teenaged spectator in 1994, with his dad (and then-car owner), Kelly Kahne. "We flew out from Seattle, and had a blast," Kasey recalls. "Ever since then, I wanted to race in it."
Although he has generally been fast on the tight quarter-mile oval, Kahne has also been unlucky. The huge Chili Bowl entry list - a record 286 Midgets - requires three nights of qualifying heats and preliminary features to pare the field down to the 24 A-Main starters, and often poor luck on those nights has kept Kahne from achieving success in the Saturday-night finale. His best A- Main finish was sixth, in 2001.
"We've run well at times, and we've just about won prelims," he says, but a Chili Bowl checkered flag has thus far eluded him. "It's a tough little track."
A tough little track that he hopes at last he will conquer.