Monday, August 26, 2013

Kahne Too Nice To Finish First?

Side-by-side but no bump-and-run for Kasey Kahne
Leo Durocher supposedly said it first.  “Nice guys finish last.”

Durocher, known as Leo the Lip, was a tough as nails baseball player and manager who retired in 1973 and died in 1991.  His Hall-of-Fame career still ranks in the all-time top 10 in games won as a manager – and in games ejected from by umpires.

More recently, the band Green Day put it slightly differently in a song, but the meaning is the same.

"Nice guys finish last.
You're running out of gas.
Your sympathy will get you left behind.”

Which leads to the question, is Kasey Kahne getting left behind?  Is he too nice to finish first? 

It happened again Saturday night in Bristol.  Kahne won the spring race at Bristol and clearly had the fastest car at the end of Saturday’s race.  But he couldn’t find a way past Matt Kenseth, who had drilled Kahne a couple of weeks earlier at Watkins Glen.  Kahne nudged Kenseth several times in the final laps, but it seemed more like an “excuse me” bump rather than the “move over, I’m coming through” bump Bristol has been famous for.  It was his fourth second place finish this year, three of them to Kenseth.

In the press room afterwards, third place finisher Juan Pablo Montoya, who has been known to put the bumper to a driver or two, admitted he dropped back at the end, expecting fireworks between Kahne and Kenseth – and disappointment when nothing happened.

“I was hoping they were going to wreck on the white flag to be honest,” Montoya said.  That’s what I call joking on the square.  He said it for a laugh, but he meant it.

Kenseth, however, didn’t seem surprised Kahne hadn't wrecked him, despite the Watkins Glen incident.

"Kasey's as good as they get and he's a clean driver," Kenseth said.  "Kasey has got a great reputation.  He's a really hard racer, really talented, and he's also a really fair racer as well."

For his part, Kahne was obviously dejected after the race, blaming himself for not finding a way to past Kenseth.  But he wasn’t apologizing for not employing the bump-and-run.

"I just didn't get it done. I had the better car.

At the end of the day I just don’t wreck people,” Kahne said, in stark contrast to Tony Stewart, who famously said he’d wreck his mom to win a championship.  “I’ve always really raced that way.”

Greatness has been predicted for Kahne since his first season in NASCAR in 2004.  He won six races in 2006, but was shutout the following year and hasn’t won more than two races in any season since.  He has two wins so far this year, is eighth in points and seems locked in for the Chase.  But the question remains.  Is Kahne too nice to win a championship?

Let’s hope not.  I have more respect for Kahne than ever and NASCAR needs a champion like him.  I just hope he isn’t goaded into wrecking someone to get that championship.