Walking away from something you love is the hardest decision one can make. Kasey Kahne made that decision earlier this year, declaring 2018 was the finale for him inside a Cup car. The time had come to move on, and do something different.
But, being told your decision will come sooner than planned, that is unexpected and untimely.
Kahne now has that reality, because health overpowered desire, and now, he’s forced to end his career in a way that he never imagined. A young man who constantly was loved by his fans, his competitors, and his bosses, now sees his season end six races early, and not by his own choice.
Here’s a young man who broke into the sport by taking over a car made famous by a Hall of Fame driver, who knew his time was up but also saw the potential of what he could accomplish. He found his niche, and the backing, to prove he belonged to be in a high-profile car. A few years later, one major sponsor decided that with change, comes opportunity.
A fresh face for an established brand, and an opportunity to invigorate the fans into cheering what became “his brand” and his potential. It worked.
But with all that potential, comes struggles. Come 2010, something inside him changed.
That’s when Hendrick Motorsports came calling. Despite contracts filled through the following season, Mr. Hendrick took a gamble, and brought Kahne into his group for 2012. But, Kahne needed to fill the gap between then…and did that with a one-year opportunity. However, things in-house began to change, and he felt something wasn’t right. He felt as if the team was not fully committed to him.
Not long after, Richard Petty Motorsports removed his likeness off the haulers, and the shop. He then got told his time was over, and he was relieved of his duties at the organization. With that, his time with his layover before Hendrick began.
Success came early, and often. But then came the down years, the struggles, and the questions.
He wanted one more successful year, and in a way it was. He was competing every week, he stayed out of trouble, and under the radar in a way. No one was talking about Kahne, and that could be considered a good thing. That is, until one lasting image during a warm September night changed everything.
No interview, just an image. Kahne wheeled away on a golf cart needing fluids. That is the final image that fans had of Kahne, as he never will climb through the window again.
The final ride for Kahne at Darlington will forever be the moment that changed his career, and life. Just like Dale Earnhardt Jr, who lost nearly half a season because of concussion symptoms, Kahne is seeing his career end because he would be unsafe at the wheel. He’s unsafe not because he’s a poor competitor or can’t drive, but because his body is not letting him.
It’s not how anyone wants to end their career, because of doctor’s orders.
WWE Hall of Fame inductee Adam Copeland, who was best known as Edge in the business, had to step aside because his doctors said that his neck was to the point that one wrong landing could lead him to permanent paralysis. Dennis Anderson, leader of the Grave Digger dynasty in Monster Jam, saw his final run in a truck end with him being pulled from a rolled truck and being rushed to the hospital. He then was forced to step aside from driving his family namesake, and fans still wonder “what if” in regards to that moment.
Kahne is now in that same category. He already was prepared to walk away when the checkered flag waved at Homestead. He certainly wasn’t prepared to walk away right now.
Sometimes one doesn’t have a say in such a decision, however one does have a choice to either accept it and move forward, or be filled with regret as to what could be done different. Kahne should not regret how his career ended, but rather be grateful for the career he’s experienced.
It came to an end earlier and under tough circumstances, however Kahne is likely happy with what his career has given him. In that aspect, he can feel satisfaction, and in the end, that’s all he wanted.