Kasey Kahne will not defend his 2017 Brickyard 400 in Sunday’s running. On Thursday evening, his team Leavine Family Racing announced he would be stepping out of the #95 car for the 2018 iteration of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway event due to physical illness stemming from last Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
After the race in which he finished twenty-fourth, Kahne visited the infield medical center to receive fluids to treat heat exhaustion. As the week led into Indianapolis, the symptoms worsened, resulting in the Thursday news. As Indianapolis is the final regular season race before the playoffs, Kahne’s predicament will effectively eliminate him from playoff qualification in his last season of full-time Cup racing. Kahne, who currently sits in twenty-seventh in points, requires a win in order to qualify. He only has one top ten in 2018, a fourth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway.
2018 is Kahne’s first season with LFR after spending six seasons with Hendrick Motorsports. Despite early success with HMS, he struggled in his last three seasons with the team, including missing the playoffs in 2015 and 2016. He endured a 102-race winless streak before ending it at Indianapolis in August 2017, surviving a chaotic race that eliminated numerous contenders. Until Chase Elliott‘s win at Watkins Glen International last August, it was the latest win for Hendrick.
By missing the Indy race, it will be the first Cup race without Kahne in the field since the 2003 Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a streak of 529 races.
In Kahne’s place, Regan Smith will assume driving duties. A current pit report for Fox Sports, Smith has had extensive experience as a substitute driver since 2012. After departing Furniture Row Racing late in the 2012 season, he drove the #88 Hendrick car in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway while Earnhardt was out with a concussion. A year later, he qualified Hendrick’s #48 car at Richmond Raceway typically driven by Jimmie Johnson, who was on paternity leave. In conjunction with his Hendrick interim duties, he also joined HMS satellite team JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, driving its #7 for three years and winning five races.
In 2014, Smith took over the #14 of Stewart-Haas Racing at Watkins Glen while regular driver Tony Stewart was involved in an investigation surrounding a fatal sprint car accident. The next year, he replaced SHR driver Kurt Busch in the #41 for the first three races while Busch was embroiled in a domestic violence case. Shortly after, he filled in for Kyle Larson in the #42 Chip Ganassi Racing car at Martinsville Speedway after Larson fainted the day before race day.
After a full-time 2016 Cup campaign with Tommy Baldwin Racing, Smith found himself out of a ride when TBR scaled back to a part-time schedule for 2017. During the spring of that year, however, he returned to a Cup car in another backup role, driving the #43 of Richard Petty Motorsports while Aric Almirola was recovering from back injuries sustained in a crash at Kansas.
With his employment by Fox, Smith has yet to run a national series race in 2018. His last start in NASCAR’s top three series was in the Camping World Truck Series, where he raced part-time for RBR Enterprises; in thirteen races with the team in 2017, he recorded two top tens and a best finish of sixth at Daytona.
In 213 career Cup starts between 2007 and 2017, Smith has thirteen top tens, four top fives, and a win at Darlington in 2011. It was the first win for Furniture Row Racing, a team that has grown to become one of the Cup Series’ top organizations yet announced its plans to shut down at season’s end on Tuesday.
The Big Machine Vodka 400 at Indy will take place on Sunday, 9 September.