Kasey Kahne will step away from the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season due to lingering health issues.
Kahne made the announcement through social media Tuesday morning. The decision cuts Kahne’s farewell year short after announcing Aug. 16 that he would retire from full-time Cup racing at season’s end.
The team announced on Wednesday that Regan Smith will pilot the ride for the remainder of the season before handing off to Matt DiBenedetto, who will drive the car full time beginning next season. The team will also move to Toyota and align with Joe Gibbs Racing, beginning in 2019.
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After receiving post-race treatment for heat exhaustion and dehydration at Darlington Raceway, Kahne and LFR announced Sept. 6 that he would be sidelined after physicians recommended he sit out pending further evaluation. Regan Smith has served as Leavine Family Racing’s substitute driver for the last five races.
Kahne tested a car last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway in hopes of returning to competition for last weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway. Tuesday, he indicated that nagging hydration issues ruled out a comeback this season.
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“Out of the race car, I am perfectly healthy, I feel great, and the doctors have determined that I have no underlying health problems,” Kahne wrote. “My body just can’t handle extended periods of time in the race car and we weren’t able to control the sweat ratio to keep me hydrated enough to prevent any permanent damage to my body.”
— Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) October 9, 2018
In a conference call with reporters Sept. 7, Kahne indicated that the dehydration had been a chronic problem that increased in severity at Darlington as drivers faced hotter temperatures in one of the longest races of the year. The 38-year-old driver also noted the health issues contributed to his initial decision to retire from NASCAR racing.
Putting his body through similar conditions was a risk that Kahne and his doctors thought best not to take until a proper solution could be found.
“At this point I have to just figure out how to finish these races, how to be able to go that long in a hot car in the environment that we’re in, between the air temp and the dew point degrees, just to control it all,” Kahne said.
Kahne indicated that his condition would not preclude him from participating in sprint-car racing, where he is also a successful team owner.
“With much shorter races and open cockpits, there is no issue with my health or hydration with that type of racing,” Kahne wrote in his tweet.
Kahne’s career comes to an end with 18 wins in 529 starts over 15 years of racing at NASCAR’s highest level, including three Coca-Cola 600 victories at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kahne competed for five teams throughout his Cup tenure – Evernham Motorsports (2004-07), Richard Petty Motorsports (2008-10), Red Bull Racing (2011), Hendrick Motorsports (2012-17) and Leavine Family Racing (2018).