CONCORD, N.C. – Kasey Kahne has hit back at detractors suggesting that he retire immediately and sit out the remainder of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, rather than trying to return to the driver’s seat at Leavine Family Racing.

Kahne previously confirmed that he would retire at the end of the season, but has run into recent health issues stemming from heat-related exhaustion and dehydration that kept him out of the seat for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will sideline him for at least the next three races.

Regan Smith subbed for Kahne at Indianapolis, carrying Kahne’s nameplate on the back windshield, and will do so again at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway, Richmond (Va.) Raceway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval while Kahne continues to recover.

The announcement that Kahne would miss three more races, combined with his prior retirement decision, sparked a firestorm on social media and led to Kahne issuing a statement on Wednesday explaining his action and where his current mindset is.

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“People want to know why I don’t just retire and sit out the rest of the season, and the answer is simple,” Kahne wrote. “I love racing. I’ve been racing for most of my life and I’m not ready to give it up.”

Kahne has been a part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 2004, but Monday’s race at Indianapolis was the first time he had ever missed an event after 529 consecutive starts, in large part due to lingering effects from the extreme heat exhaustion and dehydration he went through in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

He explained what he’s been going through inside the race car during a recent teleconference.

“I didn’t start having problems until last year,” said Kahne. “I don’t really know why that is, and we’re trying to figure that out. I can’t control the temperature in my body, and my heart rate, at a certain point (late in the race). Once it gets to that point, there’s nothing I can do until I get out of the car.

“I don’t want to create any more damage to myself.”

There is no timetable yet for Kahne’s return, but he stressed that he wants to return and see his NASCAR journey through to the end, as well as keep competing in other forms of racing in the future.

“I’m listening to the advice of my doctors and we are coming up with a plan on when it’s safe for me to return,” said Kahne. “I want to continue racing in some capacity for many years to come, in whatever division that may be.

“The current steps that I am taking are to find a way for my body to tolerate racing in any environment,” Kahne continued. “To those that have supported me through this process, I appreciate each and every one of you.”