Much like Danica Patrick, it’s Cup Series or bust for Kasey Kahne.
The Brickyard winner, in remarks reported by SavannahNow, says he’s not interested in driving in the XFinity series next season.
“I really think that I can come up with something good and come up with something that will be fun to be a part of and also try to work hard to make that team better than it’s ever been and myself better than I’ve been,” Kahne said. “I think I’ve lived a great part of the sport, been part of all that and I don’t want to be done yet.”
Kahne is one of several successful, veteran drivers looking for a ride in 2018 as NASCAR teams confront a sponsorship crunch.
But will he be able to find a ride?
Kahne admitted that when Hendrick Motorsports released him from his contract — and quickly replaced him — he was hurt, telling ESPN:
It definitely kind of took the wind out of you. Sunday morning I woke up the same. Then Monday, I felt better, Tuesday better, and now I feel really good about kind of where we’re at and where we’re headed and hopefully something really good comes out of it all.
It definitely took the wind out of my sails there for a minute. … I want to keep racing NASCAR. I want to be in the Cup series. I’ll do whatever I can to be part of it.
Kahne, who was released by Hendrick Motorsports in favor of 19-year-old William Byron, said he knows securing a ride in 2018 will be hard.
I think we all know that there’s not a ton of opportunity and there’s some really good drivers that don’t have a deal done at this time that will probably end up in cars, I would think. I feel like the opportunities are pretty slim, but I’ve always tried to be really respectful and when I’ve the opportunity to go fast and win, we’ve been able to win some races. I would always like to win more, but we have some wins and have done a good job with the people in the garage and our partners over the years, so I really think I can come up with something good and something fun to be a part of.
How can you NOT root for this guy?
When Hendrick Motorsports suddenly released Kahne from his contract, there were nothing but kind words and well wishes from his old teammates. The move was likely a cost cutting move, as NASCAR teams are shedding more expensive veteran drivers in favor of more affordable young talents.
If anyone needed more evidence that it was nothing personal between the team and driver, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick has now said that he is working to find Kahne a ride for next season. He wouldn’t give details, but said via NBCSports:
“I’m also trying to help Kasey in another situation that we could be involved with in helping another team.”
When asked if Kahne could be going to GMS Racing, who is looking to move up into the Cup series next year, Hendrick answered:
“I’m not going to mention the team, but I know there are several situations that we’re talking to, kind of an alliance, which would be good for everyone. We’re working on it. We’ve been working on it and we’ll just see how it develops.”
It is no surprise the two are still on great terms since after the 2004 rookie of the year and recent Brickyard 400 winner was released, both the team and Kahne released gracious statements to the press:
Rick Hendrick said in his release:
Kasey has worked extremely hard. 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 was classy in his remarks as well:
I’d like to thank Rick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for their hard work and dedication, along with providing me a great opportunity and success over the last six years. We won six races together and I’m coming off of one of the biggest wins of my career at the Brickyard, which has given the (No.) 5 team a lot of momentum heading into the playoffs. We still have a lot of racing left in 2017 and finishing strong is our top priority. I look forward to what the next chapter in my career holds.