Kahne hopes Brick­yard 400 win can save job

The Sentinel-Record - - SPORTS - DAN GELSTON

LONG POND, Pa. — Kasey Kahne was busy cel­e­brat­ing his win in the Brick­yard 400 and missed his team owner state plans are not set for the No. 5 car next sea­son.

You know, Kahne’s ride. The one he’s un­der con­tract to drive in 2018.

“I didn’t hear that un­til I got home,” Kahne said.

But there was lit­tle need for a spoiler alert warn­ing on team owner Rick Hen­drick’s news.

“I pretty much knew it,” Kahne said, laugh­ing. “There’s not a lot you can do. I’m signed there through 2018 and it’s up to him what I do next year and the rest of this year. I want to race and I love rac­ing. There’s a lot of peo­ple at Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports that I en­joy and like work­ing with and things. I love rac­ing and hope­fully I can win a lot more be­fore it’s done.”

Kahne’s fu­ture driv­ing the No. 5 Chevro­let be­yond this sea­son re­mains murky, even with his mile­stone vic­tory at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way. He made the tra­di­tional kiss of the bricks and spent the week cel­e­brat­ing with friends and his crew. His team even lined up some bricks back at the team shop and let em­ploy­ees who didn’t make the trip pucker up and kiss ‘em.

His los­ing streak was over. Some of the angst over his mid­dling sea­son evap­o­rated, too.

“Yeah, for me,” he said. “It’s good for our team, as well, and our fu­ture. Who knows? It’s def­i­nitely good for our fu­ture.”

Is win one at the Brick­yard re­ally enough to save his job?

Kahne’s fate has been in limbo for most of the sea­son be­cause of run-of-the mill fin­ishes and spon­sor­ship woes. Farmer’s In­sur­ance bailed on Kahne and Great Clips also cut ties with the driver. Great Clips was ac­tu­ally signed as the pri­mary spon­sor for 10 races an­nu­ally through the 2018 sea­son. But that deal ended early — and so could Kahne’s run with Hen­drick.

“There’s noth­ing con­crete or done and that hasn’t changed,” Hen­drick said in In­di­anapo­lis. “We’ll see how things shake out at the end of the year.”

Wil­liam By­ron, the 19-year-old sen­sa­tion and Hen­drick prospect, has dom­i­nated the Xfin­ity se­ries and join Jim­mie John­son, Chase El­liott and Alex Bow­man in the four-car sta­ble next year.

With­out that needed in­fu­sion of spon­sor­ship dol­lars, Kahne could be else­where in 2018.

But there are few qual­ity op­tions. Richard Chil­dress Rac­ing saw Paul Me­nard leave for Wood Brothers Rac­ing and there’s no guar­an­tee RCR’s third en­try will be filled in 2018. Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing could have open­ings if Dan­ica Pa­trick and Kurt Busch leave. Matt Kenseth, the 2003 cham­pion, also is on the mar­ket be­cause Joe Gibbs Rac­ing re­placed him in ‘18 with Erik Jones.

Kenseth said he’s had no se­ri­ous talks with an­other team.

“Nah, not re­ally,” he said.

Kenseth, though, won a com­bined seven races in 2015 and 2016. Kahne’s los­ing streak stretched 102 races.

“We haven’t had wins out of that shop in a while,” he said.

Al­most three years — a stunning dry spell for once one of the top young driv­ers in NASCAR.

He won as many as six races in 2006 driv­ing for Ray Evern­ham and fin­ished as high as fourth in the stand­ings in 2012 driv­ing for Hen­drick. He won two races in 2013, won Aug. 31, 2014 at At­lanta Mo­tor Speed­way for ca­reer vic­tory No. 17 and then — noth­ing.

Kahne slumped and had back-to-back win­less sea­sons for the first time in his ca­reer. He opened this sea­son with a sev­enth-place fin­ish in the Day­tona 500 and was fourth in At­lanta and seemed to show he might have re­turned to form. But his suc­cess was just a flicker and he crashed out of five races and failed to fin­ish bet­ter than 15th in the nine races lead­ing into In­di­anapo­lis.

Kahne over­came scor­ing heat, painful mus­cle cramps and a gru­el­ing, crash-marred, six-hour marathon to win at Indy.

“We didn’t have the fastest car on Sun­day, but we had a re­ally good car and our strat­egy worked out per­fect,” he said. “Usu­ally our strat­egy doesn’t work. That strat­egy worked, so we ended up in vic­tory lane. It’s tough.”

He has two ca­reer wins (2008, 2013) at Po­cono Race­way and a third could make a de­ci­sion for Hen­drick that much tougher.

Kahne rev­eled in the spoils of vic­tory. He’d rather en­joy some job se­cu­rity.

“I had a lot of fun and did some me­dia stuff, TV and also ra­dio and things, things that I hadn’t done a lot of lately,” he said. “It was good to be part of all that again.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press

CIT­I­ZEN KAHNE: Kasey Kahne drives into turn one dur­ing the NASCAR Brick­yard 400 auto race last Sun­day at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way. De­spite the win, Kahne’s fu­ture driv­ing the No. 5 Chevro­let be­yond this sea­son re­mains murky.

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