Column: Kahne a serious contender for championship
Published 2:48 am Saturday, March 25, 2006
Kasey Kahne's season is shaping up to be just as successful as last year's season was disappointing. Kahne made a huge entrance in the series in 2004 and easily won the Rookie of the Year and should have won several races. Despite winning his first race at Richmond last year, he finished the season in 23rd position in the championship standings.
Through four races this season, Kahne is second in points, 50 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, and won the race in Atlanta last week. Much has been made of Kahne's maturation process and that he is a much more patient driver this year. He will make the chase and looks to be a serious contender for the championship.
Even though his day ended in disappointment with a blown engine, wasn't it great to see Bobby Labonte and the no. 43 leading the pack for the first handful of laps in Atlanta? Bobby's luck has been rotten so far this season, but he has been strong at times. Hopefully, those guys can get Lady Luck on their side and win a race before the end of the year.
It is looking more and more like Kevin Harvick might be the first driver of 2006 to jump to a new team for the 2007 season. Car owner Richard Childress and Harvick have put a mid-April deadline to renew their contract. Word is that Harvick is looking to package himself, his Busch teams, and his truck teams and wants a wad of money from Chevrolet, an amount of money that Chevrolet might not be willing to pay.
Harvick is in a different situation than many drivers. He has built a fairly successful company, Kevin Harvick, Inc, and fields multiple teams on the Busch and truck circuit. In fact, his other teams have been more successful lately than his cup team. With those teams in mind, Harvick wants financial support as a package deal. Don't be surprised to see Harvick take his deal to Toyota and don't be surprised to see Toyota jump all over his offer.
One thing is for sure, Richard Childress will not let this issue linger very long. Childress is old school; if you don't want to race for me, then I don't want you. I would not be surprised to see a mid-season change in the no. 29 car. Childress has worked hard to get his team back into a position of winning races and the work has paid off for two of his teams. Rookie Clint Bowyer is tenth and Jeff Burton is 11th in the standings. Harvick has struggled and is currently 23rd with no top-ten finishes.
Maybe Harvick's luck changes this week. He is the defending race winner at the track that is next on the schedule, Bristol. Both races at this track are highly-anticipated year after year. The night race in August is my favorite race of the year. This track is a little over a half mile and has 36 degree banking. Can you imagine going 125 mph around a half-mile bowl?
Some drivers will lose their tempers, some top-notch drivers will have awful finishes, and the winning car will be beat to heck and back. Those things are given; they happen every race at Bristol. That is why races at this track are so much fun to watch.
Kurt Busch's season needs a kick in the pants and he just might get it this week. Busch has won four times here and his car number, 2, has won this race nine times. No, Rusty Wallace did not win all nine races in the no. 2 car. Dale Earnhardt won twice at Bristol while driving the no. 2 car back in 1979 and 1980.