Kasey Kahne Races Toward NASCAR Fame Open wheel racing fans better catch Kasey Kahne while they can. The 20-year-old racer from Enumclaw, WA, is dominating the national midget scene in his first full season with the United States Auto Club. In...
Kasey Kahne Races Toward NASCAR Fame
Open wheel racing fans better catch Kasey Kahne while they can. The 20-year-old racer from Enumclaw, WA, is dominating the national midget scene in his first full season with the United States Auto Club. In his spare time, Kahne races up front in winged and non-winged sprinters and silver crown cars. He's on the fast track toward NASCAR. Kahne became the second-youngest driver in USAC history to win a Coors Light Silver Bullet race Labor Day, leading all 100 laps from the pole in the 50th Annual Ted Horn Memorial 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. Only Jeff Gordon, who was 19 when he won at Phoenix International Raceway in 1991, was a younger champion. Kasey was the first rookie since Bubby Jones in 1976 to win the prestigious race. He was also the first rookie to take the pole since Jimmy Sills in 1989 and the sixth driver to lead every lap. Pancho Carter was the last to accomplish that ... 32 years ago. Kahne is the 12th driver in DuQuoin history to win from the pole. The most outstanding aspect of Kahne's feat is that he won in only his second race on a dirt mile oval.
"We were lucky," Kahne said following his victory at DuQuoin's
"Magic Mile. "We were able to clear the main jet (in the #67 Brian & Garys Cars For Less/Zarounian Motor Sports car) during a red flag prior to the restart and that helped us overcome our starting problems."
Kahne fell behind veteran Tony Elliott on the original start, but after 15 caution laps, USAC officials called for a complete restart. J.J. Yeley battled Kahne throughout the race.
"I knew if he got by me the race would be over, so I did everything I could to hold him off," Kahne said.
The day before, Kahne was running second in a Badger Midget Racing Association event at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, WI, when a mechanical malfunction put him in the pits. Kasey led the first 50 laps in Saturday's MCI WorldCom National Midget Series "Hut 100" at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, IN. His third-place finish gave him a comfortable 234-point lead over Jay Drake in the standings. Only World of Outlaws regulars Paul McMahan, Craig Dollansky and Jason Meyers finished ahead of Kahne in Friday's Gumout Series race at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, MO.
Like one of his favorite drivers, Tony Stewart, Kahne's USAC exploits are already attracting NASCAR's attention. He even followed three-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon's example and moved to Indianapolis to follow his dream. He now lives in defending USAC midget champion Jason Leffler's condominium. Leffler, a teammate of Stewart's, drives Joe Gibbs' Busch Grand National stock car. Kahne broke one of Gordon's long-standing records while winning the second Belleville Midget Nationals preliminary feature. His 25-lap time of 7:42.55 was almost 18 seconds faster than Gordon's in 1990. Kahne followed that with the most prestigious victory of his career, winning the Belleville Midget Nationals August 11th. He also won the "Night Before the 500" at Indianapolis Raceway Park. "Coming over here, I was hoping to win, but I never thought we would," said Kahne, who extended his MCI WorldCom National Midget Series points lead with his third straight championship feature victory.
"This is definitely the biggest race I've ever won. It's pretty awesome to be able to win it my first time here." In 17 USAC MCI WorldCom Midget races this season, Kasey has driven Steve Lewis' #91 Beast into the top 10 16 times, including 12 in the top five and five victories.
"I thought we'd do well because of the midget program I came into," Kahne says. "I figured this out quickly, but I didn't think it would be this good. It's been real good.
-30-"I've been focused on the pavement. There was a big adjustment period and I drive the car a lot differently. Growing up, I learned to drive on the dirt in a smooth manner, and that's helped now on the concrete.
"At first, we weren't racing for the points, just the experience. But now, we have a good points lead. I just want to win every race." For more about auto racing's brightest star, check out his web site at http://www.kaseykahne.com.