CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kasey Kahne said he was frustrated he’d blown his championship chances by making a “hardheaded mistake” at New Hampshire, and it boiled over into his brief televised interview that left viewers speculating about his health.
Kahne said Tuesday there was nothing physically wrong with him following his accident at New Hampshire. Rather, he realized immediately after his crash with 47 laps remaining Sunday that his title hopes were over, and he allowed his anger to derail the now widely discussed interview with ESPN reporter Jerry Punch.
“I screwed up and I was frustrated. Two races in, I’m already out of the Chase. It’s a (crummy) deal,” Kahne said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
“I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I knew he asked what had happened. At that point, I didn’t know exactly what had happened. I knew we were three-wide getting into Turn 3. Did we have a little contact, and that’s why we spun? I wasn’t positive on that. But I was really just mad, and I didn’t think too much of (the interview) until I saw people thought something was wrong with me.”
His health was just fine, though, as Kahne had already been medically cleared by the care center and returned to his race car with 25 laps remaining in the race. But the damage was done: Kahne had been running eighth at the time of the accident, which occurred when he was stubbornly racing Brian Vickers for position on a restart, and he wound up 37th. It dropped him to last in the 13-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.
“I just screwed up. I was under him and we were really close together and racing hard and you can lose grip pretty easy off of (Turn) 4, and I maybe should have just backed up a little bit,” Kahne said. “But I was trying to stay beside him to be there when we got to the next corner. I needed to just give up and get in line and try to pass him later. I didn’t want to give up that one spot, and I ended up giving up 30 spots because I was hardheaded and made a hardheaded mistake.”
Now Kahne is 71 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, winner of the first two Chase races. It’s more than a full race behind Kenseth, and Kahne has resigned himself to his fate.
It’s tough to swallow for Kahne, who worked so hard over the summer to earn a spot in the field.
“The first thing you think about is you are racing to make the Chase, and now you are out of it with eight races still to go,” he said. “It’s just so many points out. I could see Matt having one bad race, everybody having one bad race. But not two bad races. The guys who are going to win the championship are definitely not going to have two bad races.”
Kahne isn’t writing off the final two months of the season. He said he felt awful Sunday night and most of Monday, but perked back up Tuesday to reset his goals for Hendrick Motorsports and his No. 5 team.
“I feel terrible for my guys, and I feel like we are out of that part of it, the championship, but there’s so many good tracks in the Chase for us coming up,” he said. “I feel like we can still come back and get in the top 10, and maybe even better that. As much as I love giving speeches, I want to be part of Las Vegas. I owe it to my guys.”