Owner: Ray Evernham • Team: Evernham Motorsports • Crew Chief: Tommy Baldwin
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Final Points Standing
After First 26 Races
Lead Lap Finishes
Below is the ranking of the team on each type of
track along with the driver's best finish.
2nd, Las Vegas
2nd, Rockingham, Texas, Michigan, California
14th, Watkins Glen
Ray Evernham’s rookie had to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2004 season. Kasey Kahne proved he is the real deal with a gaudy 13 top 5 finishes in his first run through the Nextel Cup tour. It might be a stretch to put a driver who has no career wins to his credit in our top 10, but in this case it would be silly to leave him off. Kahne was the highest finishing rookie in 19 events last season en route to earning Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors. Kahne will get his first win in 2005, and this quiet and unassuming West Coast phenom is poised to become a superstar very soon.
Although Kahne will struggle at the short and plate races this season, he should prosper elsewhere. We see another year of experience translating into more consistent finishes at his weaker tracks, and we envision up to four wins on flat and intermediate tracks where he has already proven to be a threat. Look for the addition of Slugger Labbe, who was named director of speedway development in the offseason, to bolster the Evernham restrictor plate program.
The future is bright for this young man. Expect to see Kahne on the stage in New York at season’s end.
Most observers thought that the two second-place finishes in the first three races were a flash in the pan, but Kahne proved to the racing world he meant business with 22 lead lap finishes and 17 races led throughout the ’04 season.
Although he missed qualifying for the Chase, he was on a tear heading into the 26th race. The team reeled off five top 10s in the seven races prior to Richmond to jump from 14th to ninth in the standings. However, an ill-handling car relegated him to a 24th place finish at RIR and dropped him back three spots in the standings to 12th.
Kahne exceeded all expectations with his performance at Lowe’s. He absolutely dominated the race for 207 laps before a flat tire ended his evening. After that disappointment, he notched three top 5s in the final four races. Although he ended the season on a down note, expect Kahne to challenge weekly next season.
• The Good: Performance aside, Kahne showed maturity beyond his years after crashing while leading at both Dover and Lowe’s. He also was a model of professionalism at Chicago after he was spun out by Tony Stewart.
• The Bad: Kahne and his Dodge boys never got the handle on the short tracks. In six races, he had only one lead lap finish.
• The Ugly: The plate tracks were Kahne’s true Achilles heel. He kept the guys in the fab shop busy with dented finishes of 41st, 30th, 25th and 27th. You could say his learning curve even got bent last year.