Kasey Kahne goes into this NASCAR season with millions of eyes locked in on him.
It is no surprise that the newest driver at HMS is in the spotlight; after jumping from team to team, Kahne finally landed a golden opportunity with Rick Hendrick’s organization and inked a four-year deal back in April of 2010. A one-year stint at Red Bull Racing eased the transition into what seems to be the driver’s first real chance at achieving a championship. Many of Kasey’s fans are anxious to see how the #5 team will do in the upcoming Daytona 500, the off-season seeming more torturous when waiting for your driver to debut with a new team.
For the first time, Kahne has a stable foundation at Hendrick Motorsports, where he has to focus on one thing: being a driver. His time at Richard Petty Motorsports brought some success, but money problems and tightening belts hurt his performance. This led to his release in late 2010. Then, he signed to Red Bull Racing for the rest of 2010 and 2011, but the team couldn’t find investors to keep it afloat. Despite being on shaky grounds, Kahne managed to win for both RPM and now-dormant Red Bull. If he can win for insecure teams, imagine what he can do for a solid group like Rick Hendrick’s.
To help Kahne find success in the new setting is crew chief Kenny Francis, who has stood beside his driver since 2006. Francis is often called ‘One of the smartest men in the garage,’ and his intelligence, combined with Kasey’s driving ability, has led to 11 wins together. The second-longest relationship between a driver and crew chief, these two have a friendship and chemistry than other pairs fail to refine. The only way I see these two splitting up is if Hendrick does more crew chief swapping, and, honestly, breaking this duo up would be a mistake. They are a good thing that shouldn’t be messed with.
The most important thing in all of this is to realize that Kasey Kahne is a quality driver. Full of perseverance and mental strength, he has proven himself time and time again that he has what it takes to win it all. Following an off-season media blitz that brought him into the spotlight for the wrong reasons, Kahne bounced back at Daytona Testing, topping the speed charts during the three-day session. Many people are confident he will be a contender in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup, and some of his fellow drivers find him to be a threat.
With solid ground and relations to support him, Kahne can finally showcase his abilities and shine bright. Will he win the championship this year? Nobody knows for sure, but other drivers are hesitant to count him out. Why? Because he can now thrive in the spotlight.