By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – After Thursday’s announcement that Kasey Kahne would not be making the trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend to defend his Brickyard 400 crown, the 18-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner took the time on Friday morning to detail exactly what is going on health-wise and his outlook for returning to the car for the remainder of the season.
Everyone remembers the story of how Kahne won last year’s race at Indianapolis all while being dehydrated and cramping up severely. It turns out that was the start of what has become a recurring problem for the driver of the No. 95 car for Leavine Family Racing as he has gotten later in his career.
Along with Indy, Kahne noted that he has had the same types of issues throughout this year, most notably at Kentucky and Bristol, but last weekend’s race at Darlington took things to a whole new level.
“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 anymore,” Kahne said of Darlington. “So, I was super hydrated. I was in really good condition going into the race. Had a great practice on Friday.
“About halfway through the race, I started getting to the point where I couldn’t drink any more. Once I can’t drink any more, I’ve already lost a lot more at that point in time fluids than what I was able to put in. That’s why I can’t drink any more, it will start coming back out. I keep drinking the most that I can throughout the rest of the race, but it just gets super hard. My body keeps sweating so much that I have, like, absolutely nothing left by the end of the race.
“At Darlington, about a hundred to go, it was really hard to keep my eyes open and see. 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.
“After the race, I went to the care center. I threw up all the way there. A lot of fans seen it. Threw up in the care center. They got IVs going in both arms. At that point I got to where I wasn’t sick any more. Sick all the way on the drive home.
“It’s just been a rough week. That’s where I’m at today. Not racing Indy. Really tough decision.”
LFR announced that Regan Smith will be taking Kahne’s place at Indianapolis, but there are concerns that he may have to sit out more races over the remainder of the season if he and his doctors cannot figure out what is going on with his health to cause the dehydration issues he has been suffering from.
Kahne, who has been big into physical fitness in recent years, noted that he can work out, take long bike rides, runs, etc. without any issues, but once he is in the cockpit of his stock car for more that two hours or so, that’s when things start going downhill.
“I’m fine for 50 minutes, an hour and a half, two hours,” Kahne added. “Once you get past that point in time, you can’t catch up. You’ve been losing throughout all that. Then I quit drinking as much always because I start trying to throw up. You’re not putting anything in, and you’re losing even more. Just gets so far behind that, you know, your heart is trying to help cool you off, hydrate you, but there’s nothing else to use.
“I’ve been basically the same size, the same person for 15, 16 years in NASCAR. 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.
“I just can’t control the temperature of my body and my heart race. Once it gets to that point, there’s nothing I can do till I get out of the car. We’re still trying to figure that out. That’s why I’m not racing this weekend, because I don’t want to create any more damage to myself, to my body, until I understand it better.”
Next week, the Cup Series heads out to Las Vegas, which is sure to be a hot event, with the track’s desert environment in the middle of September, definitely not cool by any means. Kahne noted that if he and his doctors can get his issues under control, he plans on being back in the car, despite the forecasts of 100+ degree temperatures throughout the weekend.
“That definitely worries me. But if we can come up with a solution to stay hydrated throughout the race, prior to then, we feel really comfortable with it, I’ll be in Las Vegas.”