Those were the headlines before the 2008 Sprint Cup season, but a new one is starting to take shape—the resurgence of Kasey Kahne.
Kahne was talked about extensively over the offseason, but only as a side note when reporters were referring to Earnhardt switching sponsors and who would replace him.
After all, who would expect a winless driver who finished 19th in points last season and struggled with setups between the old car and the Car of Tomorrow and finished the campaign with career lows in top fives (one) and top 10's (eight).
We, as sports fans, have short memories and forgotten was Kahne’s 2006 season in which he led the Cup series in wins with six, made the Chase and finished eighth in the final points standings.
Not much is the same for Kahne in 2008 as it was in 2007.
Budweiser now adorns the hood of his Dodge Charger, Ray Evernham merged with George Gillett to help fund a struggling team, the Car of Tomorrow is here to stay, and Kahne is running well again.
The 27-year-old from Enumclaw, Wash., is currently sitting third in the point standings and is the only Sprint Cup driver to have three top 10's. The intermediate tracks, which Kahne won six races on in 2006 and none in 2007, seem to be his strong point again.
Last week in Las Vegas, Kahne suffered from a sinus infection during Friday’s practice and qualifying, and started Sunday’s race in the 37th position.
After the first set of green flag pit stops were done by lap 80, Kahne was a lap down and in dire position.
The No. 9 team charged back and received the lucky dog on lap 161. By lap 220, the surging Kahne reached the top 10 remained there for the rest of the race sans a few laps after pit stops. He finished the race in sixth, notching his third top 10 of the season and climbed up the point rankings even further.
It has been 44 races since the No. 9 Dodge has been inside of victory lane, but that all can change Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track Kahne has dominated in the past with a win and five top 10's in eight career Cup races.
However, one thing is certain.
Kahne is back and is just cracking the surface of what he can do. Nobody knows if any championships are on the horizon for Kahne, but sooner rather than later, we will be seeing that red No. 9 hot rod back in victory lane, because Kahne is able.