With four races remaining in the 2021 World of Outlaws season and 28 starts under his belt, Kasey Kahne already has had his busiest year ever in the series. That is not what he set out to do.
Kahne was pressed into service when his driver, James McFadden, returned to Australia at the start of the season to attend the birth of his son. Kahne ran the first six races of 2021 in the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 9, earning a top-five at Magnolia Motor Speedway, in Columbus, Miss. after starting deep in the field in 23rd.
It was the departure of Aaron Reutzel from Roth Motorsports that created the opportunity to run more races. Reutzel was suspended for 30 days in early August for tampering with an inspection sticker on his car’s chassis. The terms for returning to the team were not acceptable to the driver, so he set out on his own, leaving Kahne as the full-time replacement.
Kahne originally planned to run a car from his shops in the Knoxville Nationals, but was quickly fitted for the No. 83 and turned in an impressive top-10 performance in one of the biggest races on the sprint car calendar.
“Everything was definitely unexpected this year,” Kahne said in a release. “It’s been a good kind of unexpected, though. I’ve enjoyed racing at this level so much again and I’d like to do more.
“It was nice to be in my car earlier this year and just get a feel to actually work hand-in-hand with my guys at the track. Finishing the year with a team like Roth, who was a part of my early career, has been really cool.”
Running fulltime since Race 54, Kahne has not yet won, but he earned another top-five at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif. He earned one of his two poles for 2021 in that same race. Kahne also set Quick Time in the Knoxville Nationals.
When he took over the No. 83, Kahne said, “I am really excited and thankful for the opportunity that Dennis and Teresa Roth are providing me to race with a great team for the last quarter of the season. It’ll be really fun, and challenging, going to some new places as we work hard to run up front every night with the World of Outlaws.
“We had a great trip to Knoxville, and I am looking forward to getting back to it and really getting started this weekend.”
In addition to his Outlaws schedule, Kahne has run another 14 events for other sanctioning bodies this year.
Kahne’s busiest seasons prior to 2021 were when he ran 27 races with the Outlaws in 1999 and 17 in 2001, one year before he moved to NASCAR.
When the season began, Kahne was prepared to run a handful of races, but his primary focus was on his two fulltime teams. And that is where the organization has shone brightest.
With a 98-point lead over David Gravel, Brad Sweet is on the verge of his third consecutive championship. Last year, Sweet’s title was not decided until the final two-race stint on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. If he leaves this weekend’s events in Lawton, Okla. and Mesquite, Texas with a 96-point lead, he will clinch earlier.
McFadden is the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors.
Sweet’s lead has been built on the strength of 16 wins and 46 top-fives. McFadden adds another pair of wins and 20 top-fives to the teams total.
As for Kahne’s time behind the wheel, much will depend on what happens during the off-season. Of primary concern is how to continue funding the second team for McFadden, who sits seventh in the points standings despite missing the first six races of the season.
“Hopefully I’ll have some answers on 2022 soon,” Kahne said. “I’d like to figure it out pretty quick, but James has been doing such a great job in the No. 9 car. We’ve put a lot of hard work in to get that car back to being a top-tier team on tour and they’ve really been there these last few months.
“The combination between the driver, the crew chief and the team is so much more difficult to find than people realize,” Kahne continued. “Brad, Eric [Prutzman], Joey [Mooney] and Andrew [Bowman] have hit on something together, they’re a perfect unit.”
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Kasey Kahne nears end of surprisingly busy World of Outlaws season originally appeared on NBCSports.com