Kasey Kahne limped through the Phoenix International Raceway garage toward his hauler, walking slowly after a 34th-place finish that left him 38 laps down.
How could this happen? Kahne had finally arrived at Hendrick Motorsports this season after an 18-month wait, full of optimism and excitement over the best opportunity of his career.
Instead, his Hendrick tenure has had a nightmarish beginning. Kahne wrecked three cars during Daytona Speedweeks – including in the Daytona 500 – and then found trouble early in Sunday's race at Phoenix.
Kahne came off Turn 4 – perhaps a little too aggressively – got loose and slapped the wall, badly damaging his car. He blamed himself for the incident.
"I've been so excited about it, and I was excited the whole offseason and couldn't wait for the season to get here," Kahne said. "I show up at Phoenix, we're the best car all day Friday, top two cars all day yesterday, would have been the same today. I just need to calm the fuck down."
Kahne criticized himself for trying too hard and said he finds himself not wanting to lift off the gas.
"It's just wide-open – and it's stupid," he said. "I just need to calm down and things will work out a lot better. I think our cars are as good as it gets right now."
Kahne had plenty of time to talk to himself during Sunday's race. After his car was repaired, the 31-year-old drove more than 250 miles to finish the race – despite only being able to gain several points.
Two races into the season, Kahne is 32nd in the Sprint Cup Series point standings.
With Las Vegas approaching, Kahne will get the first test at a 1.5-mile track with his new team. And he plans to arrive there with a different mental outlook.
"If I do (calm down)," he said, "we'll be in really, really good shape."