MOORESVILLE, N.C. — According to Kasey Kahne his eponymous sprint car team is in as good a position as it has ever been despite the stall in racing momentum caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kasey Kahne Racing entered the year fresh off its second World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship, won by Brad Sweet in 2019 after a thrilling duel with Donny Schatz, and added Australian ace James McFadden prior to Florida Speedweeks for a planned slate of roughly 50 races.
In short, as far as Kahne was — and is — concerned, life in the shop couldn’t have started out much better.
“I feel really good about where we’re at as an organization,” Kahne told SPEED SPORT during an exclusive interview this week. “It’s been tough not to be racing for everybody, but with where things have been the last few weeks, it’s very understandable with social distancing and things like that. So this (stoppage) hurt a little bit because KKR is in a great spot, but we’re still really happy. The (No.) 49 team (with Sweet) is as strong as they’ve ever been. The (No.) 9 is right there. I feel like all the guys are doing a great job.
“I really believe that both teams are ready to go win a lot of races this year once the season gets going,” he added. “Brad did last year, and James hit his stride toward the end of the year, and he had a good offseason down in Australia. I think they’re going to be tough to beat.”
While Sweet won 16 World of Outlaws main events in his own right in 2019, if there was a spark — or a shining star — in the latter stages of 2019 for KKR, it was the return of McFadden to the organization.
During his late summer and early fall stint in the No. 9, McFadden won four Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions features, both his preliminary night and the finale of the 360 Knoxville Nationals, and came from 19th to eighth in the Saturday A-Main of the NOS Energy Drink 410 Knoxville Nationals.
Add to that a World Series Sprint Cars championship and multiple A-Main victories in his home country during the winter months, and it’s clear McFadden is in the midst of one of the most successful stretches of his career.
McFadden is currently unable to come back to the United States due to the restrictions in travel surrounding COVID-19, and Kahne will fill in behind the wheel of the No. 9 for at least Friday night’s World of Outlaws Invitational at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway.
Once travel restrictions are eased, however, Kahne hopes that McFadden brings some of the same positive energy that he brought to the team last season — a trait Kahne believes elevated all of KKR.
“James brought a really good attitude, and he’s won a ton of races over the years,” Kahne said of McFadden. “Maybe not a ton of races in the United States, but he has won a lot in Australia and been very competitive in the United States when he’s been over here. So for him to come and get with what I would argue is one of the better teams in sprint car racing, and be able to jump right in the No. 9 car, I knew that he would perform. I actually feel like they did better than I was expecting, for sure.
“This year with James was about getting going and winning even more than what he did last year; we just haven’t had the opportunities to do that just yet,” continued Kahne. “But I’m really happy for the guys and James and how they all work together. I thought all along that it would work out pretty well, because we’ve been friends with James for a while. We’d known him and I’d known him for a while and what his talents were, as well as where our stuff was.
“All in all, I believed James would work out really well for us, and it has so far. Hopefully, we can get him back soon and keep it going.”