Kasey Kahne on last year’s speculation about job security: ‘I didn’t really let it get to me’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Last season’s constant speculation over his job secuirty didn’t bother Kasey Kahne, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t grab the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s attention.

Last summer, Hendrick announced an extension of Farmers Insurance, the primary sponsor of Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet, through 2017, but it wasn’t until November that the team extended the driver’s Sprint Cup Series contract (which was set to expire in 2015) for another three seasons.

“I saw it, but there were a lot of other things that went on,” Kahne told MotorsportsTalk last Thursday during the preseason NASCAR Media Tour. “It’s just what it was. I didn’t really let it get to me, but I knew it was out there. It’s hard not to see it on social media.”

Last year’s rise of Chase Elliott, who won the 2014 Xfinity Series championship for JR Motorsports but is under contract to Hendrick, also fed the curiosity about Kahne’s future.

The news that Elliott, 19, would supplant Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet next season put the uncertainty to rest about Hendrick’s driver lineup – but it came as no surprise to Kahne, 34.

“I always knew Jeff wasn’t going to race a lot longer,” he said. “He’s made that clear with different conversations we’ve had, but you never knew when he would be done. Chase is still so young that I thought he would fill that seat when it was time. It would  just rely on whenever Jeff was ready to get out of the car because Chase has done such an awesome job as a young man to do what he’s done. I was suspecting that would be the spot.”

Some of the conjecture about Kahne’s place was driven by performance. In his 2012 debut with Hendrick, he finished fourth in points, but he slipped to 12th in 2013 and 15th last season when he didn’t win until Aug. 31 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (snapping a 13-month winless drought with his 17th career victory.

During the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup, he notched only one top 10 – a 10th at Charlotte. Hendrick moved crew chief Kenny Francis to a management role and brought in Keith Rodden (who was Kahne’s engineer for several seasons before spending 2014 as a crew chief for Jamie McMurray).’

Kahne said Rodden’s return should help shore up his team after a difficult season caused some doubts.

“As far as my performance, I wanted to be better and do better,” he said. “When I didn’t at times, things crossed my mind like, ‘Man, what is my problem. Can I not figure this out?’ Things that maybe Jeff (Gordon) mentioned had crossed his mind over the years.

“But it’s racing. I love it. I know I can do it. I know if we put the right situation together, we’re going to win a lot of races still.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.