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Originally published February 13, 2014 at 5:24 PM | Page modified February 13, 2014 at 10:45 PM

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Kasey Kahne hopes for longer and more consistent NASCAR success

Kasey Kahne, veteran driver from Enumclaw, preparing to open season at Daytona 500.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The finish line couldn’t come quick enough for Kasey Kahne on Thursday.

The 33-year-old racing veteran from Enumclaw was wrapping up a six-hour stretch of interviews during NASCAR’s annual media day at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., when he graciously made time for one more phone call.

“Almost over,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s been a long day.”

It also was a long and winding year for Kahne in 2013. It was a season in which he got off to a hot start and won two NASCAR Sprint Cup races, but crashes in three other races and a disappointing 12th-place finish (out of 13 drivers) in the year-end Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup left much to be desired.

“There were times last year when I thought we were definitely the best car for a good portion of the early season,” Kahne said. “So we’re just trying to figure out how to do that more often and for a long part of the season. That would be great for us.”

The media-day blitz Thursday helped kick off the 2014 Sprint Cup season, which really kicks into gear at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23 (10 a.m., Fox).

“It’s our biggest race of the year, so we all get really excited for it,” said Kahne, who enters his 11th season with 16 career Sprint Cup victories and more than $53 million in Sprint Cup earnings. “It would be awesome to win the 500, but at the same time you know there are some things you can’t always control here. You just try to get through this race the best you can.”

Kahne is entering his third season with Hendrick Motorsports, and he said he believes the continuity will help him and his team find consistency in the No. 5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet car.

“I think going into my third year with Hendrick Motorsports is a good thing for me. I understand the place and working with everybody, so I’m looking forward to that,” he said.

For the first time in his career, Kahne spent time this offseason working with noted sports psychologist Dr. Jack Stark, the team psychologist for the Nebraska football from 1989 to 2004.

“I’m always excited to get going early in the year — that part’s easy,” Kahne said. “It’s when you run into some difficult times and (are) trying to stay happy and (together) like you need to. … To me, (Stark) is a guy who can help me see things a little bit differently. So it’s been really nice these last couple months just preparing and getting ready to go. It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it.”

A longtime Seahawks fan, Kahne especially enjoyed the Super Bowl this year. The Seahawks’ victory also won Kahne a friendly bet with fellow driver Kyle Busch, a Denver Broncos fan who will have to wear a Russell Wilson jersey during the buildup to the Daytona 500 next week.

“I’m glad I’m not in orange, that’s for sure,” Kahne said.

This summer, Kahne and Wilson have agreed to team up to be the hosts for a charity golf tournament at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum that will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of King County.

“I’m really looking forward to working with Russell and some of the Seahawks. It’ll be a great time,” Kahne said.

Kahne had a Super Bowl party at his North Carolina home with family and friends to watch the game.

“It was a great football year for all of us, and watching the Pacific Northwest and how loud and excited — and still is, it seems — after the Super Bowl has been pretty neat,” he said. “I had a blast with it.”

This season, Kahne hopes, will be just as exciting for him and his team.

Adam Jude: 206-464-2364


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