BROOKLYN, Mich. – Following the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season, Hendrick Motorsports and Kasey Kahne will end their six-year run together as the driver has been released from the final year of his contract.
While Kahne acknowledged Friday at Michigan International Speedway that he is working through his options for 2018, it hasn’t taken away from his focus on closing out this season in the strongest possible fashion.
“The biggest thing there is just working with my team and having my team behind me, me being behind them,” the driver said.
When he showed up to Michigan and met with his teammates on the No. 5 team for the first time since the news broke, he was happy to see that the group was ready to get down to business as usual.
“We just kind of went to work, like always, and hope to put together a really strong weekend,” Kahne said. “Hopefully we can get in the top 10, that’d be a nice weekend, but I want to be in the top five and I want to see if we can have the speed to really just battle for a win again at Michigan. That would feel pretty good.”
With a Brickyard 400 win under their belts, Kahne and the No. 5 team are currently lined up to be one of the contenders in NASCAR’s playoffs.
And there would be no better way to cap off the season than with a championship run. But he knows to do that, the team will have to work together to keep building down the stretch.
“We’re working hard to get to where we want to be,” he said. “The only way I’m going to get there is the people and being part of that. I feel like that’s been one thing at Hendrick Motorsports, one of the coolest things there has been working with my teammates, the other crew chiefs – (Chad) Knaus, Alan (Gustafson) and Greg (Ives). Those guys, I just feel like I’ve had a really good relationship with that whole group on both sides.
“So, I think we have to keep that going all the way to the end of the season and try to get the best results that we possibly can.”
As the week has progressed since the announcement was made, Kahne said his talks with Rick Hendrick – and hearing some of the Hendrick Motorsports owner’s comments – have been important to him.
“A lot of what he said this week means a lot to me, because to have somebody like Mr. Hendrick on your side, even though I’m not going to be part of his team anymore, to be on your side and the power that he has in this sport and what he has done for NASCAR, for this sport, for so many drivers and employees over the years, to have him behind you is a really good thing,” he said. “I respect him a ton.”
“Mr. Hendrick has been really supportive,” he continued. “He wants me in a car as well. It didn’t work out in the (No.) 5, but he wants me in another car and he wants me to be out there racing next year.”
First and foremost, Kahne said, his eyes are still on the prize in 2017.
And he’s confident in what the No. 5 team will bring to the track week in and week out.
“If we do what I know that we can do,” Kahne said, “I think we can really perform and do a lot more than what we’ve done so far this season.”