By Terri Ketterman
“I’ll take that Coors Light pole with a slice of Redemption Pie, please.” You have to believe that’s what Kasey Kahne fans are thinking after a long couple of years that have seen their driver in some odd situations that have pushed his Kenny Francis led teams into the hinterlands of mediocrity.
Kahne’s 2010 season was successful by some teams’ standards, with four poles, and seven top 5 finishes. One might say it was remarkable given the turmoil that Richard Petty Motorsports was undergoing, but it certainly fell far below fans’ and observers’ expectations for the Enumclaw, Washington driver who set the Cup series on fire in 2004 as a rookie. Although we think of Kahne as a superstar in the sport, the numbers belie that, with only eleven wins across seven full Cup seasons.
At first blush, it seemed bizarre for Kahne to step into a stop-gap seat with Red Bull Racing for just one year while he waits off-stage, so to speak, for a co-star role on the Hendrick A-list. Careful consideration, however, will lead one to believe that given his ability to bring along Francis, and to have available solid resources and relatively stable structure at Red Bull, it was a genius move. Even moderate success at Red Bull will serve to solidify the already powerful Kahne/Francis chemistry and ensure confidence levels for the not-so-young-anymore driver stay high going into a very Earnhardt, Jr-esque “do or die” scenario at HMS.
Darlington seems like the perfect track for Kasey to start his climb back to the top. Although he’s got no Cup wins at the tempestuous Lady In Black, he’s led 171 laps and snagged two top fives in that series, and is 2-0 in the truck series here. His dominating run in a Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota came just a short two months ago.
With Red Bull behind him, and a Hendrick light pulling him to the end of a long painful tunnel, the Case for Kasey winning his first Southern 500 is very compelling.