MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Disgusted with how he was running early in the season, Kasey Kahne realized he needed some answers.
Kahne had to do something to turn around a year that had begun to resemble a nightmare. Missed setups, driver errors and pit-road issues had plummeted Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet SS to outside the top 20 in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points.
He met with his longtime crew chief, Kenny Francis, early in the spring. They agreed to fix what ailed Hendrick Motorsports’ only underperforming team.
Kahne had few bright spots in the midst of a difficult start to the season. Teammates Jimmie Johnson (three wins), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two) and Jeff Gordon (one) have outshone him. All three clinched a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup by the end of May.
Kahne had no such luxury. He needed to figure out why his was the only Hendrick car outside the top 10 when most races ended.
“We had to really sit down and talk about things together and get back on the same page,” Kahne recalled of his meeting with Francis. “There were a lot of things we were thinking differently on the first six to seven weeks of the year. We’ve spent a lot more time together figuring things out, than what we had early in the year when we were maybe thinking different directions with the car and adjustments and setups for each track.
“I feel like our relationship’s still really good, and because we have that we’ve been able to figure it out and do enough testing and things to get back on track.”
Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt are first, second and third in points as the tour heads to Daytona Int’l Speedway for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400. Kahne, who still hasn’t won this season, just recently moved up to 15th in series standings.