Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Kahne finds happy place in Sprint Cup

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Kasey Kahne had a full day of work ahead at Talladega Superspeedway but his mind was 1,200 miles away.

His sprint cars were racing at Eldora Speedway, and Kahne was determined to find a way to get to the track. Only Tony Stewart wasn't answering his texts, and Kahne was getting frustrated.

No need to worry, NASCAR fans. Kahne has no plans to swap series. He's off to the best start of his career, living drama-free at Hendrick Motorsports, and couldn't be more pleased with his place in Sprint Cup.

"I'm in a pretty good spot right now," Kahne said.

Indeed, driving for Rick Hendrick might finally have given Kahne the home he had sought.

Crew chief Kenny Francis came with him, continuing a relationship that began at the end of the 2005 season — second longest in the series only to Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus.

They overcame a rough start to their debut season with Hendrick last year to win two races, make the Chase for the Championship and finish a career-best fourth in the standings.

This year, Kahne doesn't have the deep hole to dig out of — he's tied for third in points heading into today's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, where he starts 10th. And he already has a win, in March at Bristol.

So yeah, his mind still wanders to World of Outlaws because he has a vested interest with three Kasey Kahne Racing entries. But he's so pleased at Hendrick that he's no longer plotting and scheming to fill his schedule with different forms of motorsports.

"For a while IndyCar was really something I looked at. It was something I wanted to try and figure out how to do the (Indianapolis) 500," Kahne said. "But lately, for whatever reason, since I've been with Hendrick Motorsports, I've felt like everything is sitting there for me now. Team-wise, personnel, ownership, sponsorship — everything is there.

"The other stuff just hasn't been on my radar."

Life was good when he drove for Ray Evernham, especially his six-win 2006 season. But Evernham sold his majority ownership in the team, and the wheels slowly fell off from there through frustrating times at Gillett Evernham Motorsports, which evolved into Richard Petty Motorsports. Kahne signed for Hendrick for 2012 — but needed a ride for 2011 and wound up at Red Bull Racing, which folded at the end of that season.

At Hendrick, it's stress-free.

"You can go through any of the shops, any area, and guys are pretty happy," Kahne said. "That's not really normal. A lot of times guys are mad, or angry because drivers crashed too many cars. At Hendrick, the atmosphere and the people, it's a lot happier, and I think that starts at the top with Mr. H."

Qualifying ppd.: Carl Edwards will start on the pole today, followed by Martin Truex and Marcos Ambrose, after qualifying was rained out. The field was set by practice times.

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