The fourth member of the Hendrick Motorsports’ band – Kasey Kahne – seeks a better season in 2015.
Kahne won the fall Atlanta race a year ago to earn a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but he was eliminated after the Contender Round along with teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Still, Kahne has long-term job security with a contract extension through 2018 confirmed late last year. Additionally, he’ll have a new crew chief in Keith Rodden, who returns to Hendrick a year after serving as crew chief for Jamie McMurray at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Rodden was Kahne’s long-time engineer before joining Ganassi.
Rodden replaces Kahne’s longtime crew chief Kenny Francis, who moves into a research and development role with Hendrick Motorsports.
“Having Keith Rodden back on the 5 team will be huge,” Kahne said during Thursday’s NASCAR media tour in Charlotte. “I worked with him for years. He engineered my car for the first time in 2004 I think.
“We have a great relationship; we’re friends. He did a nice job last year on the crew chief side, and has everything he’s learned from Kenny in the past. Getting back together with Keith will be good, because he brings a lot to the 5 team. It should be neat to get started.”
More pressing than the season ahead – at least in the interim – for Kahne is his beloved Seattle Seahawks going for their second straight Super Bowl championship (Sunday on NBC).
Kahne and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson worked together last year in a charity event that raised funds for the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County.
“We did a golf tournament in June 2014 and we’ll do it again this year right after Sonoma in Washington,” Kahne said.
“Russell’s a good guy, a super focused guy. I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game. If they played anywhere close to the last 6-7 minutes they did two weeks ago, they’ll be two-time Super Bowl champions.”