Hendrick Motorsports announced on Thursday, November 20th that Kasey Kahne has signed a three-year contract extension with the team, with him set to drive the No. 5 Chevrolet thru 2018.
“It’s extremely gratifying to work with a driver like Kasey,” Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, said. “I think the world of him both as a driver with championship-level talent and an overall terrific young man. Our whole organization has a great deal of respect for how hard he works, the professionalism he displays with our partners and the way he carries himself every day. We’re committed to winning races and competing for titles with him for many years to come.”
Kahne has been with Hendrick Motorsports since 2012, earning five wins, four poles and scoring 26 top-five finishes.
“I’ve found a home at Hendrick Motorsports,” Kahne said. “We have incredible people and partners supporting us, and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction we’re headed as a team and a company. It’s the right place for me, and I’m looking forward to being here for a long time.”
Hendrick Motorsports also announced that Kahne will have a new crew chief in 2015 with Keith Rodden calling the shots. Rodden spent last season at Chip Ganassi Racing working with Jamie McMurray. Before working with McMurray, though, Rodden was at HMS as part of Kahne and the No. 5 team in 2012 and 2013 as the lead engineer.
“Opportunities like this don’t come around often,” Rodden said. “The people at Hendrick Motorsports are like my family, especially in the 5/24 shop. I expect we’ll have great chemistry right off the bat, which should make for a smooth transition. I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running with the No. 5 team and everyone who supports us. There’s no better resource than Kenny, so I hope he’s ready for some late-night phone calls.”
Kenny Francis, who previously worked with Kahne, was named to the new position of vehicle technical director, where he will oversee the organization’s “design and development with day-to-day management of Hendrick Motorsports’ chassis, body, research and development, on-track testing, vehicle engineering and simulation programs”.
“This is a great opportunity for both guys, and it will strengthen our overall organization,” Hendrick said. “With the new rules for next year, it’s more important than ever to have a strong vehicle development program. Unifying those efforts for the first time under Kenny’s guidance will be critical to our success. It plays to his experience as a leader, innovative engineer and race-winning crew chief. He’s just tailor-made for it.
“Keith is one of the most talented young crew chiefs in the garage. He already knows our culture and works extremely well with our people. The relationships and familiarity he has with Kenny, Kasey and the No. 5 team will make it easy to hit the ground running. We talk a lot about ‘fit factor,’ and this definitely falls into that category. He’s the right fit.”
“When it was clear there was a need for this role, I was very intrigued and felt it would be a great challenge,” Francis added. “It encompasses areas I’m passionate about, and I know we can make a difference for our teams, especially with the new rules for next year. There are a lot of reasons why it feels right at this point in my career, and I’m looking forward to contributing in a new way.”
Kahne comemnted that he was grateful for Francis’ hardwork over the years, and happy to see the crew chief get this opportunity. Kahne added that he feels “it’s going to give all four Hendrick Motorsports teams the best possible opportunity to win races and compete for championships”.
“Bringing Keith back is big for us. We spent 10 years together, so we have a very strong overall relationship and understanding of how to communicate,” Kahne continued. “There’s a great friendship and a lot of mutual respect, but at the same time I know he’s really going to push me. I trust Mr. Hendrick to put the right people in the right places to make us successful, and I know these decisions will do that.”