As it turns out, a win at the Brickyard 400 and subsequent playoff berth didn’t have any impact on Kasey Kahne’s future at Hendrick Motorsports.
HMS announced Monday that Kahne won’t be returning to the No. 5 car in 2018. Kahne joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and had a contract through the 2018 season. The team is releasing him from his deal a year early.
“Kasey has worked extremely hard,” Hendrick said in a statement. “He’s a tremendous teammate and person, and he has been totally dedicated to our program since day one. I’ve always believed that he’s a special talent, and I know he will thrive in the right situation. We will do everything we can to finish the season as strong as we can.”
Kahne is 19th in the points standings with three top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes in the first 22 races of 2017. He won the Brickyard 400 over Brad Keselowski as the two drivers traded the lead on late restarts.
The win prompted a lot of speculation that it could save Kahne’s job with Hendrick for 2018. But in reality, Kahne’s status with the team was likely a lot more complicated than a win-and-stay-in-the-car scenario. While his contract with the team ran through next year, sponsors Farmers Insurance and Great Clips had said earlier this season they wouldn’t be returning to the team in 2018.
Together the two companies sponsor two-thirds of the races for Kahne’s car.
Kahne’s arrival at Hendrick Motorsports was one of the more unique driver changes in modern NASCAR. The team announced Kahne’s arrival for 2012 during the 2010 season. Without a home for Kahne in 2011, the driver raced for Red Bull Racing that season.
In five-plus seasons with Hendrick, Kahne has five victories. He was fourth in the points standings in his maiden season with the team but his performance has dropped off ever since. In the successive years after that top-five finish, Kahne has finished 12th, 15th, 18th and 17th in the standings.
Hendrick said in the release announcing Kahne’s departure that it will announce plans for the No. 5 car at a later date. The team could stay in-house for the ride and promote Xfinity Series driver William Byron (even though he’s a rookie in the series) or look outside for a driver. Champions like Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch don’t have contracts for 2018.
– – – – – – –