Hendrick Motorsports driver won at Atlanta in '14 to lock up Chase spot Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live HAMPTON, Ga. – Last year, Kasey Kahne used a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway to secure one of the 16 available positions in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Six months later, the Hendrick Motorsports driver is hoping for similar results. A win in Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (FOX, 1 p.m. ET) brings with it no guarantees, but it certainly would put the 34-year-old in a much less stressful situation. Kahne was the final driver to secure a Chase spot by virtue of a victory here last August, however a schedule change now finds the 1.54-mile track hosting the season's second stop. A win would go a long way toward easing his team’s concerns as the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season begins to pick up steam. "It would be a lot better and a lot less stress, but it is what it is," Kahne said Friday as teams began preparations for Sunday's race. "We'll take it any way we can." There are goals this year that the '14 effort failed to accomplish, he said. Winning and running up front more often for starters. Better results in practice and better qualifying results as well. "It all starts this weekend," Kahne said. "It would be great to come off with a win right away … and then just go from there. The end of the '14 season also signaled the end of the Kahne /Kenny Francis driver/crew chief pairing. The two had worked together, with two brief exceptions in '07 (due to Francis' suspension) and '10, for a stretch of more than 300 races from the 2005 season finale at Homestead through '14. They have 17 wins in their respective positions, with 16 coming while working together. Francis earned his first win as crew chief with former driver Jeremy Mayfield; Kahne went to the winner's circle for the first time with Tommy Baldwin Jr. calling the shots. Today, Francis oversees car design and development as the vehicle technical director for Hendrick Motorsports. Keith Rodden, crew chief for Jamie McMurray last season at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, returned to the HMS fold to replace Francis on the No. 5 team. He and Kahne have a history. "I think the first time he was my engineer was 2004 in the XFINITY Series," Kahne said of Rodden, "and we have kind of been on and off together ever since. "There is a lot more to it than just the communication side. It's kind of the preparation at the shop throughout the winter, how the guys look at things and how our cars are built. He's done a really good job with all that stuff." Kahne , who agreed to a three-year contract extension last November, joined HMS in April of 2010 but didn't officially make the move until 2012. Five wins have come since the move and he is a three-time winner at Atlanta. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Hendrick Motorsports driver talks offseason plans, 2015 goals RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Kasey Kahne had an up-and-down 2014. The 34-year-old driver won for a third consecutive year at Hendrick Motorsports , notching the victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the penultimate race of NASCAR's regular season. That late win vaulted the No. 5 team into the Chase and ensured that all four of Hendrick's teams were in it. But Kahne and longtime crew chief Kenny Francis didn't consistently flash the speed that their fans have been accustomed to seeing. The rumor mill began churning with talk of Keith Rodden possibly leaving Chip Ganassi Racing and returning to HMS next year to lead Kahne's team. That move was confirmed shortly after Homestead, as was a new three-year-deal for Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports . NASCAR ILLUSTRATED: What do you have planned for the offseason, anything you're particularly looking forward to? KASEY KAHNE : I'm excited mainly just to have a little break. I need a break away from racing. Looking forward to going home for a few days back to Washington in Enumclaw, hitting a Seahawks game and then heading to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for a week to ski, snowmobile and shop. I'm looking forward to that. NI: Your Atlanta win was the high point of the season. How would you describe the relief of getting into the Chase? KAHNE : It was definitely a highlight as a team and stepping up and working together. Getting a win that night was really nice for us, nice to make the Chase and get in. But I think the win meant more than anything just to show that we're capable if we do things right. When we do things right, we're still capable and we have a lot to look forward to in the future. NI: What are your thoughts on the new Chase format now that you've been through it? KAHNE : It's been really interesting and I personally like it because both winning and consistent teams will advance. In each round, both have advanced, so to me it's kind of like the points system but it's also like a playoff. So I like that. And it's also put more pressure on the teams and drivers every single race, which has created more drama. The fighting, the running into each other, I think it's really made it more intense. It's actually been pretty damn exciting. NI: You and Russell Wilson raised $220,000 in two days during "The Drive" this summer. What does the future look like for the event? KAHNE : Russell's excited and I'm excited about our first tournament together and the first time we worked together on charity. We're gonna do it again next year and try to make it an annual deal. The golf tournament was great and the course and the people involved. We expect to grow it and want to work and make sure it's bigger and better each year. RELATED: Kahne , Super Bowl MVP team up for 'The Drive' NI: What specific areas of your team's performance need to be better in 2015? KAHNE : Really the first thing I look at is speed in practice, qualifying, race. We don't have those fast laps like we've always had in the past. We have to look at that; I have to look at that, we have to look at that as a team. Our pit stops have to be better. You can't lose spots every time off pit road and expect to do well in this series. It's way too competitive. I think both of those things and just the communication and working together, normal things that you have to have as a team. I just think we all need to get a little better at that. I think it will all take care of itself once we get the speed back, once we know we’re putting up fast laps whenever we're on the track. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Hendrick Motorsports driver looks ahead with new crew chief Keith Rodden Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge Kasey Kahne wasn't happy with his 2014 performance on the track. " … I wanted to be better," Kahne said of last year during Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "I wanted to do better and when I didn't at times, things crossed my mind like 'Man, what's my problem? Can I not figure this out?'" The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had glimmers of stardom sprinkled throughout the year. He won a thriller in August at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which qualified him to compete in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He also nabbed top-10 finishes at 11 races, including the prestigious event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (sixth). But when compared with his previous multi-win runs in the Sprint Cup Series, Kahne's season was considered otherwise subpar. In walks Keith Rodden, the new No. 5 team crew chief with arms full of knowledge, leadership and confidence in his driver. "I feel like Kasey's a great driver at every track," Rodden said. "We just need to put it all together, get everyone on the team pointed the same direction and get going." And Rodden isn't a stranger to the team. Despite Kahne's longtime kinship with former crew chief Kenny Francis -- who moved into a vehicle technical director position for Hendrick Motorsports at the end of 2014 -- the Kahne -Rodden duo has been strong for years. "It's been a long time since I've changed crew chiefs," Kahne said of the staffing change. "This is only the third one I've had in the Sprint Cup Series. So that's going to be a big change for us. "But as far as myself and Keith ... first time we worked together was in 2004 and that's before myself and Kenny worked together. And we've had a long relationship together -- Communication has been really solid between us over the years and we're friends." Rodden served as a team engineer for Kahne from 2004 until 2013, when he left to pursue a crew chief position with Jamie McMurray at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. "It's been a lot of fun being back in the 5/24 shop, back with all the guys I used to work with," Rodden said. "Everyone's welcomed me back with open arms and we've really hit the ground running getting ready for the season." With Rodden back on his side, Kahne believes his team will be steered in the right direction. "Keith, he's a motivator, he's a team guy, he pushes you," Kahne said. "He asks for everything you've got and if you make a mistake, you're going to know it. ... We're going to figure out why and what it was, make it better and go from there. "He's also going to go after what he wants and what he needs and that's something that a crew chief needs to have at HMS to be competitive." Rodden's appointment was not the only change made in the offseason. During the few months of downtime on the NASCAR schedule, Kahne has worked on bettering another area of his No. 5 crew -- the ever-forgotten aspect of camaraderie. "The thing that I feel that I can help with -- and I can be a part of -- is just being part of the team and being part of the group," Kahne said. "We have a strong group of guys, and I don't think we've been a strong enough team to compete like some of the other ones. "That's something that we worked on during the offseason and we'll carry on through the regular season as well. Being together, knowing each other better, working hard for each other. ... We hold each other responsible, work hard and when we make mistakes, we make gains at the same time." During the offseason, the squad has convened several times off the track to build a brotherhood needed for cohesiveness on the asphalt. It's a door that hasn't been touched much -- and one that the soft-spoken driver felt he and his team needed to crack open. Because for Kahne , trust and accountability with his pit crew becomes even more important during the swift 12 seconds of a NASCAR pit stop. "There's so much that goes on in the pit stops and everything happens so quickly that the smallest mistake you lose two or three spots," Kahne said. "That cost you 30 minutes on the racetrack to get back to where you need to be ... (the pit crew's) role is a big role and (Rodden) knows that." With that understanding, Kahne believes his old pal Rodden will be just the guy to lead his team to Victory Lane in 2015. "Oh man, I'm ready to get started," Kahne said with a smile. "I want to get started and see where we stack up. I feel like Keith's going to do a really nice job with the cars and the team and the guys." And what he added later alludes to his confidence in his No. 5 team -- and himself. "It's racing -- I love it and know I can do it," Kahne said. "If we put the right situation together, we're going to win a lot of races still." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Will Hendrick driver rebound with familiar face back as crew chief? MORE: Full schedule of season previews Team: Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet Rank in final 2014 standings: 15th Wins: 1 ( Atlanta Motor Speedway ) Year in photos: Kasey Kahne 2014 highlights Strides: Kahne has qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in each of his three years at Hendrick Motorsports , but after a career best fourth-place finish in the 2012 championship standings, he hasn't fared as well. A 17-time race winner in the Sprint Cup Series who has visited Victory Lane in eight of his 11 full-time seasons, Kahne has impressed team owner Rick Hendrick enough to earn a three-year extension on his contract during the offseason. His clutch victory at Atlanta is a reminder of the potential championship-caliber effort that has made him one of NASCAR's elite drivers. Setbacks: After securing a place in the Chase with a win in the next to last regular season race, Kahne only managed a single top-10 in the season's remaining 11 races and never seriously challenged to move past the Contender Round. His three top-fives were his lowest season total since 2007. Last year marked the first time in his career that Kahne went consecutive seasons without winning a pole. Quoteworthy: "I'd say our season was just okay. We didn't have a lot of speed this year. A few races we ran up front, but not often enough. … Hopefully we hit on something a little better this year (2015) that fits my driving style better than we did last year. This past year we just never hit on it like I'd like to." What's next: Kahne is one of nearly a dozen drivers with a new crew chief atop the pit box in 2015. Longtime crew chief Kenny Francis, who has been with Kahne for all but five races since the end of the 2005 season, will move into the "vehicle technical director" position at Hendrick while Kahne's former engineer Keith Rodden takes over the No. 5 crew after spending a year as the crew chief for Jamie McMurray and the No. 1 team at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. "I think change is good and we needed a change," Kahne said. "Keith has been with me before. We have a good working relationship and a friendship. He's aggressive and gets the job done. He likes our team … just needs each one of us to step up and do a better job. I think Keith will be a great leader and take us into a good direction." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kahne also picks up new primary sponsor for three races in 2015 RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today MORE: Rodden to step in as No. 5 crew chief Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday morning that it has signed driver Kasey Kahne to a three-year contract extension, keeping him in the fold through 2018 . "I've found a home at Hendrick Motorsports," said Kahne in a team release. "We have incredible people and partners supporting us, and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction we're headed as a team and a company. It's the right place for me, and I'm looking forward to being here for a long time." The news comes one day after a major shakeup with Hendrick's No. 5 Chevrolet team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, with Keith Rodden accepting a crew chief role and Kenny Francis, atop Kahne's pit box since the 2005 season finale, shifting to the position of vehicle technical director. Kahne , an 11-year veteran and 17-time winner in NASCAR's premier series, and Francis joined the Hendrick organization in 2012. "It's extremely gratifying to work with a driver like Kasey ," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports said in a team release. "I think the world of him both as a driver with championship-level talent and an overall terrific young man. Our whole organization has a great deal of respect for how hard he works, the professionalism he displays with our partners and the way he carries himself every day. We're committed to winning races and competing for titles with him for many years to come." In addition, Kahne will have LiftMaster on board as a primary sponsor for three races in the 2015 Sprint Cup season as well as an associate sponsor for the rest of the races. The agreement will be for the next three seasons (2015 to 2017). LiftMaster will be the primary sponsor for Kahne on May 24 (Charlotte), July 11 (Kentucky) and October 18 (Kansas). "It means a lot to have support from a great company like LiftMaster," Kahne said in a release. "The No. 5 team has high expectations for 2015, and they'll be with us as the primary sponsor at three tracks where we're traditionally very fast. All of us are looking forward to representing them throughout the season and developing a successful long-term relationship." We’re excited to join @KaseyKahne & @TeamHendrick starting in 2015! http://t.co/kZJdDPiroS pic.twitter.com/2aP8Oy7CJr — LiftMaster (@LiftMaster) November 20, 2014 The 34-year-old driver has won five times in Hendrick equipment and notched his best-ever finish in the season standings -- fourth -- in his first year with the team. Last season was a struggle, however, with Kahne posting just three top-five finishes and winding up 15th in the final standings. Kahne qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with a Labor Day weekend victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the next-to-last race of the regular season. Kahne survived the first round of eliminations in the new-look Chase, but was ousted in the Contender Round, the second three-race leg of the postseason. Kahne agreed to join Hendrick in April 2010, replacing veteran driver Mark Martin . After signing the multiyear agreement, Kahne finished out most of the season in Richard Petty Motorsports' Fords, then spent the last five races of 2010 and all of 2011 driving Red Bull Racing's Toyotas before finally landing in the No. 5 Chevy. Re-signing Kahne , whose contract was set to expire after the 2015 season, helps solidify the Hendrick driver lineup. Team cornerstone Jeff Gordon , a four-time series champion, signed a lifetime contract with Hendrick in 1999. Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson is also under contract through 2015, and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., the sport's most popular driver, is signed through 2017. With Hendrick at the NASCAR-mandated maximum of four teams and the unlikelihood of Johnson departing after 2015, speculation will likely rise about the future of 18-year-old prodigy Chase Elliott , the reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion who is under contract to Hendrick and drives for the affiliated JR Motorsports team with co-owner Earnhardt. Team owner Rick Hendrick said Nov. 8 after Elliott became the series' youngest champion that the young driver's career arc will likely include a handful of Sprint Cup races next season, but that there is no accelerated timetable to place him in NASCAR's premier series on a full-time basis. Elliott will return next year to defend his title in what will be known as the NASCAR XFINITY Series, driving JRM equipment. "Another year of seasoning here will be good for him, and we're not in any hurry," Hendrick said. "He's 18 years old." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kasey Kahne , driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, spent his Wednesday (Feb. 4) hanging out and watching PGA golfer Rickie Fowler play golf in the Farmers Insurance Open Pro-Am at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California.
Kahne earns first victory -- and Chase berth -- with thrilling finish RELATED: Complete results " Updated standings " Current Chase Grid HAMPTON, Ga. -- It was Tony Stewart's return to racing that dominated the headlines before Sunday night's Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway , but it was Kasey Kahne who stole the show -- and a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . In a race that went 10 laps beyond its scheduled distance of 325 laps, Kahne surged past Matt Kenseth on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win for the first time this year and the third time at the 1.54-mile speedway. Kenseth finished second and clinched a Chase spot on points, leaving just two of 16 positions in NASCAR's 10-race playoff available in Saturday's regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway . After streaking into the lead on a restart with 24 laps left, Kahne held the top spot until a caution for a fracas between Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. slowed the field with less than two laps left. On the first attempt at overtime, a multicar wreck in Turn 1 wiped out the dominant car of polesitter Kevin Harvick, requiring a second attempt at a two-lap shootout. With four fresh tires to Kenseth's two, Kahne overtook the No. 20 Toyota after he and Kenseth battled for a lap after the restart and pulled away to win the 17th race of his career by .574 seconds. "We were all over the place during the race, but the guys stayed with me and worked hard," Kahne said. "On those restarts -- I didn't know what would happen, because I had great restarts all night, and I struggle with restarts a lot. "That's big, because that is one of the things you have to be good at, and it worked really well tonight." It also took a huge weight off Kahne's shoulders, as the end of the regular season approached. "Yeah, we are locked in, and I hate that it comes down to this Atlanta or Richmond just about every year for me," Kahne said of the pressure to make the Chase. "Sometimes we are in, sometimes we are out. But thankful that now at HMS ( Hendrick Motorsports ), I've been in all three years now. We have the pressure all the way to Richmond, but we made it again--thankful for that." Denny Hamlin ran third, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards . Danica Patrick finished sixth, beating by four positions the best previous finish by a female driver at Atlanta (Janet Guthrie was 10th in 1978). The race that turned the season around for Kahne provided little solace for Stewart. Starting a Cup race for the first time since his involvement in the fatal sprint car accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Speedway, Stewart charged forward from his 12th-place starting position and ran as high as fourth in the early going. But Stewart's race came undone moments after a restart on Lap 123, when Kyle Busch's Toyota pinched Stewart's Chevy into the outside wall off Turn 2, significantly damaging both cars. On Lap 160 Matt Kenseth, then the leader, passed Stewart to put the No. 14 a lap down. Twelve laps later, a blown right front tire sent Stewart hard into the Turn 2 wall, forcing him to the garage and out of the race. Credited with a 41st-place finish, Stewart has one more chance—on Saturday at Richmond—to take advantage of a NASCAR dispensation that kept him eligible for the Chase. Having missed three races, Stewart must win at the .75-mile short track to qualify for NASCAR's 10-race playoff. After exiting his car, Stewart declined requests for interviews, but crew chief Chad Johnston spoke to reporters in the garage. "I went into today with some pretty high hopes of finishing well and possibly coming out of here with a win, but it just didn't work out in our favor," Johnston said. "We got into a little trouble with the 18 (Busch) and got into the outside wall, knocked the toe out of it, and a lot of heavy right side damage. "We were just trying to fix that and salvage what we could out of the day but then we blew a right front there right before that caution came out." If Stewart had issues on the track, so did one prominent driver on the Chase bubble. The shifter on Clint Bowyer' s No. 15 Toyota broke, preventing him from getting the car into high gear. Bowyer lost 22 laps in the garage as his team made repairs. He finished 38th, leaving his chances to make the Chase on points in dire jeopardy. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kahne : 'I started it to put a smile on people's faces. That's what it is all about'
NASCAR.com's Alan Cavanna sits down with Kasey Kahne to about his new look for 2014, the one race he'll never forget, the beginning of his career with Ray Evernham and his best moments of the 2013 season.
Kenny Francis, Kahne's crew chief, fined for rules infraction at Talladega