By Alex Nieten
MOORESVILLE, NC (Nov. 9, 2023) – Not often are any of Steve Kinser’s accomplishments touched. The Bloomington, IN native cemented himself as the most dominant figure in Sprint Car racing, racking up 20 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car championships and nearly 700 Feature victories. But Kasey Kahne equaled Kinser in an important category last week.
Brad Sweet wrapped up his fifth consecutive title with The Greatest Show on Dirt in grand fashion by winning the final race of the 2023 season. All five have come under the Kasey Kahne Racing banner. Add in the championship with Daryn Pittman in 2013 and Kahne’s total now sits at six – tying him for the third most titles as an owner with “The King.”
Kinser collected 14 of his championships while driving for Karl Kinser and then added six more after starting his own team. Karl leads the list with 16 titles – 14 with Steve and an additional two with Mark Kinser driving for him. Tony Stewart owns the second most with nine.
“It feels really good to be part of anything with Steve Kinser,” Kahne said. “He’s got way more championships than that, but as Steve being the owner/driver, it’s really cool to be tied with him on something. But if he adds in the rest of his we’re far from where he’s at. He’s something else in the Sprint Car world over the years. But, yeah, to be tied for third is great.”
It’s been a long journey for KKR since they first fielded cars in World of Outlaws races in 2005 and took on the full-time tour in 2006 with Joey Saldana behind the wheel. Race wins came early, but it took eight years of trying before Pittman brought the first championship trophy back to the Mooresville, NC shop. Over time, Kahne has assembled an organization capable of maintaining a championship pedigree.
“We started KKR to win and win as much as the team possibly could every single year and win championships,” Kahne said. “Something we were able to do was win races, but to win championships was much harder to do. It took time. It took people and time.”
Kahne emphasizes the importance of having the right people in the right places, which played a key role in securing the 2023 title. The trio of Eric Prutzman, Joe Mooney, and Andrew Bowman had been the crew of the Napa Auto Parts #49 for all four of Sweet’s previous championships, but Mooney departed for another opportunity this year. Kahne selected Tye Wolfgang who smoothly filled the car chief void.
“To see what the #49 has done the last five (years) is pretty incredible,” Kahne said. “I think, from the crew chief standpoint, Eric Prutzman and his preparation and his mindset, work ethic, everything that he brings to the team sets up for Tye Wolfgang and Andrew Bowman. And just how they attack every race throughout the entire season is pretty incredible with their performance and just how put together the team and cars are.”
Over the last few years, Kahne has been able to enjoy his team’s work from a much closer view. Early in Kahne’s tenure as an owner, NASCAR Cup duties kept him away from the track. But as he’s transitioned to full-time Sprint Car driver, Kahne has often shared the pit area with Sweet and the #49 team as they’ve been on their run.
“To start, I listened to… I would say every single Outlaw race, just Johnny Gibson announcing the races,” Kahne recalled. “Then, three or four years into it the big races were on DIRTVision. I was starting to see some video of my cars racing. And then as time went on you could watch every race. That’s how I did it for years. It was great. I was in the motorhome at the NASCAR track, and that was what I did on a Friday or Saturday night is paid attention to what was going on at the World of Outlaws race, just how my guys are doing. Over the last couple years, I’ve been able to be a big part of that in person and get to watch them firsthand and get to support them that way.
“But since the start, I was always, whether it was a phone call after the race or a text the next morning, very close to my team and very supportive and just always want the best for them and to get the best out of them. Now, it’s a little different being there. It’s still the same mentality. I’m just able to watch a lot more of the success that they’ve had.”
That mentality and commitment to the sport has led Kahne to cementing his place among the most impactful figures in Series history. A place that’s aligned him next to Steve Kinser with six owner championships. A place reached by unwavering dedication to Sprint Car racing.
“I’m very fortunate and really happy that I’ve been able to try to give as much to the teams and to Sprint Car racing as I can,” Kahne said. “I really enjoy it and really love doing it. But at the end of the day, it’s just about the people that have been at KKR from drivers to all the crew members and team members.”
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series will commence its 2024 season at Volusia Speedway Park during the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals, Feb. 8-10, 2024. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.