Kayse Kahne returned home in 2014, spending time with students at Southwood Elementary School. Kahne had walked the Southwood halls while growing up in Enumclaw. File photo by Kevin Hanson

Kayse Kahne returned home in 2014, spending time with students at Southwood Elementary School. Kahne had walked the Southwood halls while growing up in Enumclaw. File photo by Kevin Hanson

Enumclaw’s Kahne retiring from NASCAR

Racing may have been Kayse’s career, but his passion also lay in philanthropical work.

Kasey Kahne, the Enumclaw native who went on to become one of the most popular names on the NASCAR circuit, announced last week he’ll be retiring from the world of big-time racing.

But it’s not like he’s stepping away from the automotive sports altogether. In a Twitter announcement, Kahne explained he’ll be devoting his professional days to his sprint car team. And, more importantly, he’ll trade the NASCAR grind for family time.

He will finish this season in the No. 95 car for Leavine Family Racing, a team he joined this year.

Kahne, who turned 38 in April, began racing open wheel sprint cars at age 14 at the speedway in Deming, Washington, before eventually moving into the USAC ranks. In 2000, he was a USAC Midget champion. And, when NASCAR came calling, he jumped at the chance.

Kahne made his Cup debut in 2004 in the No. 9 Dodge for Evernham Motorsports and surprised many with five second-place finishes and 13 Top 5 performances. With four pole positions to his credit, Kahne was honored with the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award.

Following stints at Richard Petty Motorsports and Red Bull Racing, he moved to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and finished fourth in the championship standings that season. During the 2017 race season, he qualified for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and finished the season 15th in points with one win and six Top 10 finishes.

This year, he made the jump to Leavine Family Racing.

He has 18 Cup Series victories to his credit, with the most recent one coming last season at Indianapolis.

His early success and popularity are a permanent part of Enumclaw, where Kasey Kahne Drive is the honorary name of a stretch of First Street. On the corner of his namesake roadway and Griffin Avenue is the city’s Walk of Fame, where Kahne had a plaque embedded in concrete.

One of Kahne’s passions has been the Kasey Kahne Foundation, which he formed in 2005 to focus on giving back to children. In 2006, he was selected by President George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. Through his foundation work, Kahne partnered with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on “The Drive” golf tournament in Cle Elum, Washington, raising funds for The Strong Against Cancer initiative on behalf of the Seattle Children’s Hospital. In 2016, Kahne and Wilson donated more than $1 million to the hospital.

Kahne has also supported the Ronald McDonald House, Make-A-Wish, Victory Junction, Boys and Girls Club and other charitable organizations.

Kahne has fused his racing interests with his entrepreneurial spirit via his own company, Kasey Kahne Racing. The Mooresville, North Carolina, team was formed in 2005 and employs more than 15 people dedicated to fielding sprint car entries in the World of Outlaws series.

In his personal life, Kahne became a father to son Tanner in October 2015.

Here is the complete text of Kahne’s retirement announcement.

“I’ve thought about this decision for many months, if not longer. It’s time for me to step away from racing in NASCAR full time. I appreciate everything LFR has done for me this season and offering me the opportunity to race in 2019.

“However, racing in cup full time for a few more years was just something that I couldn’t commit to. I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I know I’m at ease with the decision that I have made. The highs didn’t outweigh the lows and the grueling schedule takes a toll on your quality of life. I need to spend more time doing the things I enjoy and love and that’s spending time with Tanner and my sprint car teams.

“I’ve had a great career in racing and met so many amazing people and fans along the way, some that I’ll remain in touch with for life. We still have some work to do this year in the #95 and I look forward to finishing the season with this team.

“Thanks to everyone that believed in this kid from Enumclaw, Washington.

“I hope I made you all proud.”

Kasey Kahne, driver of the number 5 car, signs an autograph for a fan during the Kobalt Tools 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Mar. 10, 2013, in Las Vegas, Nev. Kahne finished the race in second place. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Tam)

Kasey Kahne, driver of the number 5 car, signs an autograph for a fan during the Kobalt Tools 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Mar. 10, 2013, in Las Vegas, Nev. Kahne finished the race in second place. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Tam)

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