SPEEDWAY, Ind. – With the Brickyard 400 on the line, his body cramping from a lack of fluids, Kasey Kahne was going to do whatever it took to get the job done.
“I was just not going to give up,” he said.
When the green flag waved for the final restart of the race in overtime, he powered past the leader and eventually into Victory Lane.
It was the culmination of a lot of hard work from the No. 5 team, some smart pit strategy and a little bit of luck with a well-timed caution. But ultimately it came down to Kahne making the final restart count, and he did just that.
“Unbelievable to win at Indianapolis,” Kahne said. “Unbelievable to win a Cup race. It's been a while. It feels really good for myself and my confidence. I know it's great for our team – we needed it as a team.”
It was the driver’s 18th career NASCAR Cup Series win. Hs 17th came back in 2014 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a crucial win that secured his place in the playoffs.
The winless stretch between the victories was at times tough to swallow.
“As a driver, all I want to do is win – all I want to do is perform,” Kahne said. “I put the effort in each week, whether it's at the shop, whether it's physically, mentally, at the race shop trying to prepare, watching videos, looking through old notes, how can we be better. My team works really hard, as well. But we haven't had the performance. We haven't run up front. We don't lead a lot of laps.
“I think a win like today can give myself confidence and momentum, our whole team a boost, which is something that we need.”
The fact that the win came at Indianapolis Motor Speedway made it that much sweeter.
“I feel like this is a huge win for us. Being the Brickyard means even more to me."Kasey Kahne
Kahne recalled moving to Indiana in 1999 and living there for three summers racing all around the area. He and his father even took a bus tour of the Brickyard, riding on the track.
“It's pretty wild,” he said. “This is a neat place. Spent a lot of time here thinking and dreaming about winning at this track. Literally just racing at it was pretty awesome.”
When the win finally came Sunday night, it was everything he hoped it would be.
And Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick was right there to enjoy it with him.
“He was just really happy that we won. Just told me, ‘Great job,’” Kahne recalled. “It was neat to see him come over to the car and give me a hug. He was just really excited and proud of us to finally get a win.”
Moving forward, Kahne expects the win to boost the entire No. 5 team as the playoffs draw closer.
“We have a lot to work on, for sure, but we are heading the right direction,” he said. “We won a big race today. I feel good about it, man. I feel like I can still race these cars. I've known that, and I've wanted to, and I have the passion to. So to be able to get a win at this track was great for our whole team today, for sure.”
In the meantime, he’s going to enjoy this one.
“I feel like this is a huge win for us,” Kahne said. “Being the Brickyard means even more to me. One of the toughest, biggest races that you can win in NASCAR. So, yeah, it feels really, really good.”