Friday, December 26, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

In the Pits: Kahne knows he’s got to step it up for Hendrick

By
June 18, 2014 |

Hendrick Motorsports likes things neat and clean and organized. NASCAR’s top team works hard to avoid drama, and its way of doing business is a huge part of the organization’s success.

It’s fairly standard for Hendrick to tie its sponsors, drivers and crew chiefs into tidy packages of concurrent contracts.

That didn’t happen, though, last week when the team announced Farmers Insurance had signed a three-year extension of “its sponsorship of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.” There was no mention of the driver also getting a new deal tied to a sponsor that will be on the car through the 2017 season.

Kasey Kahne’s contract runs through 2015, about the same time Chase Elliott will be ready for a promotion from the driver development program to the big leagues. Hendrick Motorsports has got to put Elliott somewhere, and there’s no guarantee Jeff Gordon is going to smile his way into retirement and hand his seat over to Elliott. Gordon may be about to turn 43, but the four-time NASCAR champion is currently leading the Sprint Cup standings and has 11 top-10 finishes through 15 races.

It’s easy to read too much into Kahne being left out of the Farmers announcement, to turn a simple sponsorship extension into much ado about nothing.

But there are some obvious facts that make it hard not to wonder just how safe Kahne is with the organization:

— A seat eventually has to open for the 18-year-old Elliott, who has two wins and is thick in the Nationwide Series title race.

— The team eventually must put a plan together to replace Gordon, occupant of the No. 24 since the 1992 season finale.

— There could be a crop of free agent drivers coming available in the next few seasons, including Kyle Larson, a budding superstar that Hendrick could try to lure away from Chip Ganassi Racing. A matured Kyle Busch could be interested in returning to Hendrick, where he started his career, and Denny Hamlin has always been interested in being Gordon’s replacement.

— Most glaring, though, is Kahne’s performance: Four wins in 87 races dating to 2012. He was a career-best fourth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in that debut season with Hendrick, but he was 12th last year. Kahne is so far winless this season and is 19th in the standings. His teammates, Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., have combined for six victories, rank 1-2-3 in the standings and are all locked into the Chase.

Nobody at Hendrick Motorsports has given any indication Kahne is on the hot seat. But he’s not talking about a contract extension with management just yet, either.

“Mr. Hendrick is always trying to help me as a driver; as a person and he gives us every opportunity. So, I want to be there a long time,” Kahne said last week at Michigan International Speedway. “We still have a year-and-a-half before my deal is up. So I think (it’s about) performance, and sponsors that want to be part of them, and just getting our team back where it needs to be. We’ve struggled some this year for really no reason. We can’t have that. If we can get rid of some of those struggles, I would hope that I would be at Hendrick Motorsports for a long time.”

Kahne had a fifth-place finish Sunday at Michigan. It was only his second top-five of the season, but it came on a day that Hendrick Motorsports routed the field. Johnson won for the third time in three weeks, Gordon was sixth and Earnhardt seventh as all four HMS entries landed inside the top seven.

Asked after the race if his finish silenced his critics, Kahne was blunt.

“Probably not all of them,” he said. “And they probably don’t all need to be silenced after one good run. We were way too bad the first 14 or 15 races, and hopefully this will get us going and we can get strong from here and make some points up and get in the Chase.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick tried and failed to get Kahne into his cars early for the 2011 season. It landed him at Red Bull Racing to wait out the 2011 season. Although he won once for Red Bull and finished 14th in the standings, it was never before than a holding place until he could finally execute the Hendrick contract he’d signed almost two years earlier.

Amid much fanfare, he finally joined the organization. But it’s tough to shine at HMS, where Johnson has been the most dominant driver of the decade, Gordon is an icon and Earnhardt gets the lion’s share of the attention no matter what.

And Earnhardt is winning right now, which really makes Kahne lost in the shuffle.

He wants to stay at Hendrick and is ready to discuss a future with the organization.

“I don’t know when that date is, but I think we have a lot of really good things going on, and with a little bit of performance here and there, maybe it will come up sooner than later,” he said. “I would love to be there for a long time, so we will kind of have to see how that works out.”

 

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Solano’s 2014 art scene: A year in review

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

     
    Get your blues on – for a musical cause

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

    Area churches bring joy, toys to children

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

     
    Rear ends, reunions define 2014 in music

    By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

    Santa spreads Christmas cheer at Bridge to Life

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

     
    Word of Mouth ready to ring in 2015 at Dimitri’s

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

     
    ‘America’s Got Talent’ auditions Feb. 7 in Bay Area

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B2

     
    Suisun City police log: Dec. 24, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

    Fairfield police log: Dec. 24, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

     
    Weather for Friday, Dec. 26, 2014

    By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

    .

    US / World

    San Francisco creates court only for veterans

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Mother uses grief to help murder victims’ families

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    California plane crash victims were father and son

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

     
    Man shot with stun gun dies at border crossing

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

    California officials issue caramel apple warning

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

     
    Christmas brings California cooler weather, gusty winds

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

    Audit highlights state employee wrongdoing

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

     
    US traveler released from East Timor jail

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    Obama personal chef to hang up apron after 6 years

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

     
    More protests sparked after shooting near Ferguson

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 9 Comments

    Nevada goats help eat, recycle Christmas trees

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Hundreds of theaters begin screening ‘The Interview’

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Streaming release of ‘Interview’ test for industry

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Monkey gives first aid to electrocuted friend

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Militants attack AU Somalia base, at least 5 dead

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

     
    Saudi women drivers referred to terrorism court

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment | Gallery

    Police and fire officials save California family’s Christmas

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: Dec. 26, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community calendar: Dec. 26, 2014

    By Glen Faison | From Page: A2

    Horoscopes: Dec. 26, 2014

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

     
    Sister’s angry outbursts may be a medical issue

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

    .

    Entertainment

    Week in Preview Dec. 26, 2014 – Jan. 1, 2015

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: B1

     
    ‘Frozen’ is named top entertainer of the year by AP

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Entertainment calendar Dec. 26, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

    Warsaw’s lost architecture portrayed in miniature

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Review: ‘Unbroken’ is beautiful, but impersonal

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

    Angelina Jolie’s latest incarnation: filmmaker

    By Maureen Fissolo | From Page: B6

     
    TVGrid

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

    .

    Sports

    James hears plenty of cheers in return to Miami

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

     
    2014 sports quirks: In year of odd bounces, reality bites at World Cup

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

     
    Colin Kaepernick weighing his offseason approach

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

    Arians reportedly to go back to Lindley as starter

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    Former TE Ben Utecht delivers musical message

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    K-State’s Snyder still penning old-school notes

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    Fresno State pushed around in in Hawaii Bowl

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    This date in sports history for Friday, Dec. 26, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

    Eagles have quarterback questions going into 2015

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

     
    New OT rule in minor-league hockey generating buzz

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

    To reduce elitism, British horse racing educating spectators

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

     
    Bad news for Balotelli as Liverpool alters system

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

    LeBron James, Steph Curry lead NBA All-Star voting

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

     
    Former NBA All-Star Marbury fan favorite in China

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

    Signups for Friday, Dec. 26, 2014

    By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

     
    D-I’s youngest coach also has inexperienced team

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

    No. 17 Wisconsin hopes program back on steady ground

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

     
    Rookie Martin makes quick impression in Dallas

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

    .

    Business

     
    Bad Santa? 5 tips to tackle your holiday gift returns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

    .

    Obituaries

    Thomas A. O’Neill

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Zits

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Sally Forth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Pickles

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Blondie

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Baldo

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Baby Blues

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    For Better or Worse

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Beetle Bailey

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Dilbert

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Rose is Rose

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    B.C.

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Garfield

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Get Fuzzy

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Peanuts

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Wizard of Id

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Frank and Ernest

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Crossword

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Word Sleuth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Bridge

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Cryptoquote

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Sudoku

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9