CONCORD, N.C. – Kasey Kahne’s race days have always been a bit noisy.
Dozens of crews scurrying around a nearly two-ton stock car for days, wrenching and tuning. Hundreds of fans walking through the garage area, determined to get a picture or autograph. Media and cameras at every turn, questioning every detail of the weekend.
Now, that noise has been turned down, but just a bit.
In the pit area of a World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car event, like the ones this Friday at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., or Saturday at The Stockton (Calif.) Dirt Track, Kahne is surrounded by only a couple of crew members, who tweak on his 1,400 lb. sprint car. A few dozen fans meandering up and down the pits — some looking for a quick picture or a handshake. And a handful of media members, the majority just looking to take pictures.
Turning the volume down was not entirely voluntary. It was forced upon him by a health issue that caused him to put an early end to his NASCAR career.
While he was not medically cleared to race again in NASCAR, he’s found a new challenge focusing on racing sprint cars – a division he’s loved since a kid.
“It’s like the first thing I really got into at a young age,” Kahne says kneeling next his to orange No. 9 sprint car. “Because I got into it at a young age, and liked it so much, whether I was watching or racing myself, I’ve been hooked.”
Kahne began racing sprint cars as a teenager in his home state of Washington. He eventually moved into the USAC ranks, winning a championship in 2000. Then a couple of years later made his move to NASCAR.
A few years into his NASCAR career Kahne formed his own World of Outlaws Sprint Car team, Kasey Kahne Racing, which helped keep him in touch with the series — along with running a few races himself.
“I’ve had a blast with all that over the years, whether I was at a NASCAR race watching the DIRTVision part of it or actually traveling and watching the races with the guys,” Kahne says. “I’ve always stayed really close to it and enjoyed it.”
Since its inception in 2005, KKR has amassed one World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship — in 2013 with Daryn Pittman — and more than 170 series wins among several drivers, including last year’s Knoxville Nationals championship with Brad Sweet.
Of the drivers that have won a series race for the team, Kahne is not one of them. He would like to be.
“When I knew I was done with the NASCAR deal, I thought I would give it a shot (driving sprint cars) for a little while, you know, and kind of see how it goes and see if I can’t figure it out and get competitive driving these cars,” Kahne says.
NASCAR was his job. sprint cars… well, Kahne says he doesn’t really know what it is right now.
“I hope that I actually feel like it’s a bit of a job,” Kahne says, following up with a joke that racing is never really a job.
But he wants to work at it.
“I want to feel like I’m working at it to make it work and do the things I want and then when we do have success it’ll feel that much better,” Kahne says. “I want to put the time in. I want to put the effort in. No matter what it is, to try and have that success. Doing that is definitely a little bit of work.”