Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

March 12, 2013

Raising Kahne on track and gridiron

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Hendrick Motorsports’ Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne has a lot of hobbies, including skiing, boating, snowmobiling, and fishing. Not surprisingly, he has even been known to visit the Mooresville Motorplex for some kart racing.

In fact, at a media event last month sponsored by Bristol Motor Speedway, Kahne and fellow drivers Denny Hamlin, Scott Speed, and Brad Sweet took on the media, first in a kart race and then a flag football game.

As was expected, Kahne was consistently in the lead pack in the kart race; what wasn’t expected, however, was his skill at throwing a football.

He quarterbacked Team Great Clips to a 35-28 win over the Bristol Blitz squad captained by ESPN’s Marty Smith. Kahne wasn’t surprised by his performance on the gridiron.

“I’m not too bad at touch football,” he said. “We play about four times in the offseason.”

He was a little surprised that his team won, given the “ringer” recruited by the media team.

“We made up a small team thinking we could take (the media), but I wasn’t sure about that after hearing about one of the media’s draft picks,” said Kahne in reference to the Bristol Blitz’s Maurice Morris who played running back for the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions from 2002-2011.

Kahne was happy to win the inaugural game in the series, but he wants to win where it really matters and that’s on a NASCAR race track.

After disappointing finishes at Daytona and Phoenix (36th and 19th) to start the season, he came close at Las Vegas when he finished second behind race winner Matt Kenseth. Now he turns his focus toward getting his first career Cup win at Bristol on Sunday. He has always liked Bristol, even before he became a competitor there.

“I used to watch Bristol on television and to actually go there … I didn’t think you could drive a car that hard on such a small race track. But you can,” he said. “The first time I went there, I was in awe of the crowd, the track itself, the banks, how tight everything is. It’s pretty crazy and a place where I need to win”

Although Kahne’s 2013 season so far has had more downs than ups, he still expects to seriously contend for The Chase championship again this year. His Vegas finish has him in view of The Chase Top-Ten as he sits in 14th place in the championship standings.

“I feel like this is a year where we could win a championship. We’ll certainly put a huge effort into it and give it a great shot,” said Kahne. “Our team is as strong as it has ever been and being at Hendrick, a stable place, the cars and engines that we have every week, our sponsors, I’m as excited and at ease as I’ve ever been going into a season.”

Kahne believes the competition this season is as strong as or stronger than it was last season when he finished fourth in the final Sprint Cup standings with two wins and 12 top-five finishes. A tough track coupled with NASCAR’s best makes winning at Bristol a formidable task.   

“It would mean a lot to win at Bristol. The track makes it a difficult place to win because everyone is so close and on top of each other,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome to watch other people celebrate in Victory Lane with their teams and all of those fans surrounding the place.”

On Sunday, Kahne hopes — for the first time ever at B.M.S.— to be the one everyone else is watching celebrate.

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