Kasey Kahne just missed history by a mere 0.7 seconds at Charlotte on Saturday. All were on the edge of their seats last Saturday wondering if he could, willing him to catch Jeff Burton (except Burton’s fans, of course) but it wasn’t meant to be.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Kahne coming into Charlotte. If he won, he would have been the first to win all three events hosted by LMS in a single season.
At testing, there was a clear drop in the No. 9 team’s tone, a crew that had been childishly upbeat had become painfully pessimistic. The car was junk. It wasn’t possible the car was the setup that give Kahne his two other LMS victories (the All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600). Yet, the impossible was happening and the No. 9 car wasn’t what it once was.
On Saturday, Kahne struggled in the first two-thirds of the race. All the buzz around him was gone, the broadcasters weren’t talking about him anymore. He had gone back to a non-Chaser footnote.
Then the impossible happened again. After pitting on Lap 305, a switch was clearly flipped for the No. 9 team, as they entered the top five.
Kahne chased down Jimmy Johnson then passed him. Kahne was back on the broadcasters' lips; the crowd’s excitement grew as Kahne closed the distance on Kurt Busch for second.
On Lap 322, Burton was in sight. Hope returned to the No. 9 team, as he was 1.841 seconds behind. Lap 329, Kahne was 0.977 seconds of the leader; fans were standing in Charlotte and leaning into the TV at home. Lap 331, Kahne was only 0.7 seconds behind Burton, then it was over—the recorded had slipped away. Yet, in that moment it didn’t feel like a loss, did it? For one moment, second place was amazing.
Later, Joe Menzer from NASCAR.com asked Kahne if he though he could have won if he had more time. Kahne went on to say no that they gave it all they had and acknowledged the strong fight Kurt Busch brought for second. Menzer’s article made second feel like second; he missed the point, and he didn’t ask the right questions.
The question I would have asked was, "In that last moment, did it all go away? The record, the season, all of it—were you just racing?"
We have seen Kahne fight to the bitter end before this season. Remember Fontana, when he was side-by-side with Kyle Busch to line. I think in those moments Kahne is the young driver racing in the Midgets, when it was just about going fast. When he's pushing the car and himself for those extra seconds not because in the long run anyone will care, but because he knew he could.
That moment may be lost to the record books, but it will always be part of my NASCAR history. I am glad I got to see second become more then just losing.