NASCAR announced the news on April 10, which was Kahne’s 43rd birthday. A release confirmed that the Washington native had joined Hall of Famer Tony Stewart as the new additions to the list of 75 Greatest Drivers. Mike Helton revealed the news to Stewart ahead of the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Kahne made his Cup Series debut during the 2004 season. He took over the No. 9 Dodge for Evernham Motorsports, and he delivered 14 top-10 finishes and 13 top-fives. Kahne went winless during this season, but he walked away with Rookie of the Year honors after narrowly missing the playoffs.
Kahne won his first race in 2005 at Richmond Raceway after he started from the pole. He then went on to win another 17 Cup Series races before his sudden retirement in 2018 due to medical reasons.
Kahne Delivered Crown Jewel Wins to Hall of Fame Owners
The addition of Kahne is fitting considering the moments that he celebrated during his time in the NASCAR Cup Series. He won 18 races while making 529 starts. Four of these wins were Crown Jewel events.
Kahne reigned victorious in the Coca-Cola 600 — the longest race on the Cup Series schedule — three separate times. He first won the event in 2006 while driving for Ray Evernham. He delivered another Coca-Cola 600 win for the Hall of Fame owner in 2008.
Kahne’s third Coca-Cola 600 win took place with another team. He joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, and he took over the No. 5 Chevrolet. Kahne delivered two wins in his first season with HMS with the first being the Coca-Cola 600. He made the playoffs and ended the year a career-high fourth in the championship standings.
Kahne’s final win was also a Crown Jewel event. He started 19th in the 2017 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway amid a season of struggles. He led 12 laps at the 2.5-mile track, and he held off Brad Keselowski to win his first race since the 2014 season.
Securing this final win was anything but simple for Kahne. He had to hold off Keselowski on multiple restarts, including two in overtime. The first featured him in the middle of the No. 2 Ford and Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48, but the seven-time champion brought out the caution and sent the race to overtime after spinning and hitting the outside wall.
Keselowski and Kahne led the field to green on the first overtime attempt, but they did not fully make it out of the restart zone before drivers began wrecking behind them. This sent the race to another overtime and brought the field back together.
Kahne jumped to the lead on the second overtime attempt, and he put some distance between himself and Keselowski. He held on for nearly one lap, and then a Denny Hamlin spin brought out the caution for the final time. Kahne had crossed the line marking the overtime zone, before the caution flew, so he was declared the winner.
Kahne Also Achieved Success in 2 Other National Series
The 18 Cup Series win put Kahne in a tie for 48th all-time along with Geoffrey Bodine, Neil Bonnett, Chase Elliott, Harry Gant, and Ryan Newman. He also has 13 combined wins in the other two national series.
Kahne has the least amount of experience in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He only made six starts between 2004 and 2015. However, he celebrated five wins while driving for four different teams.
His first two wins were in 2004 while driving for Ultra Motorsports. Kahne also captured one win each for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Turner Motorsports, and JR Motorsports.
Kahne’s Xfinity Series career included 215 starts with nine pole awards, 87 top-10 finishes, 46 top-fives, and eight trips to Victory Lane. Interestingly enough, Kahne’s final wins in the Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series were both with JR Motorsports.