Kahne hopeful but Cup return uncertain

Kasey Kahne said his return to competition in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will depend on the results of a battery of tests taken by the 38-year-old earlier this week.

Those results, he said, should be known as early as next week; until then he will leave the driving to someone else.

Official with Leavine Family Racing announced Thursday that Kahne would not compete in this weekend’s Cup event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after he suffered extreme heat exhaustion following last weekend’s Bojangle’s Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

The organization has named Regan Smith as driver of its No. 95 Chevrolet for Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400.

During a teleconference Friday, Kahne described his health status, and said his hydration issue is something that has steadily gotten worse during the past year.

Kahne said under certain race conditions, he has been unable to sufficiently replace body fluids and has also had to deal with an accelerated heart rate. Those conditions came to a head at Darlington and resulted in a post-race trip to the care center where he was administered fluids.

“I was very hydrated the four days leading up to the race, ate very clean, very good foods for hydration,” Kahne said. “I knew it was going to be a really hard race on me because I just understand between the heat and the dew point degrees, if either one of them is high, I really struggle any more. So, I was super hydrated. I was in really good condition going into the race.”

But about halfway through the nearly four-hour race, Kahne said was unable to drink any more fluids and any attempt to do so would result in him throwing it back up.

“At Darlington, about a hundred (laps) to go, it was really hard to keep my eyes open and see,” he said. “I was struggling to do that. I was trying to control my heart rate because it was so high. I basically just kind of laid in the car and drove around the corners. I had to just control the car just to try to do as little as possible so my heart rate would go down because it was so high. At that point all I’m doing is focusing on my body and my health, not on what I should be actually focusing on, and that’s racing.”

Kahne finished 24th at Darlington. He has been competing in Cup since 2004 but said he had not had any health issues until the last season or so. Always physically fit, he said his weight has remained pretty much the same throughout his career. The only difference, he noted, is his age.

“I’ve been basically the same size, the same person for 15, 16 years in NASCAR,” he said. “I didn’t start having problems until the last year, two years. I don’t really know why that is. We’re trying to figure that out.”

Kahne is the defending race winner at Indy and has 18 career victories. Last month, he announced that he would not return to Cup competition after 2018.

The health scare, he said, is “definitely part of that reason, for sure.”

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