By: Robbie Mays – @robbiemays | MRN.com on August 11, 2017 | 10:40 P.M. EST
“I started basically Sunday night, Monday talking to some different owners, personnel at different teams and just trying to show that I really want to still be in the Cup Series.” (Photo: Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, Mich. – Kasey Kahne made his intentions for 2018 and beyond clear Friday at Michigan International Speedway.
Four days after the official announcement came that he would not return to the seat of the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports after this season, Kahne said he still plans to race next season and continue to do it at NASCAR’s top level.
“I want to race here and if there is any opportunity I would love to talk about it,” Kahne said. “I started basically Sunday night, Monday talked to some different owners, personnel at different teams and just trying to show that I really want to still be in the Cup Series.
“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’s win in last month’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ended a 102-race winless streak dating back to Atlanta in August 2014, but it also sparked speculation he may have saved his ride with Hendrick Motorsports.
“I still have that mindset and I really hope that something works out to where I can be in a strong car next year and enjoy racing in this series, because I’ve actually enjoyed it for so long and I’ve lived so many of the highs of the Cup Series,” Kahne said.
Kahne says that while he’s not running for Hendrick Motorsports next season, team owner Rick Hendrick wants to help him find a ride and stay in NASCAR.
“Mr. Hendrick has been really supportive and making sure that you know he wants me in a car as well,” Kahne said. “You know it didn’t work out in the No. 5, but he wants me in another car and he wants me to be out there racing next year.”
Hendrick said earlier this week he felt responsible for the No. 5 team not performing to expectations, something Kahne takes pride in.
“To have somebody like Rick Hendrick, Mr. Hendrick, to be on your side, even though I’m not going to be part of his team anymore, to be on your side and the power that he has in this sport and what he has done for NASCAR for this sport for so many drivers and employees over the years,” Kahne said. “To have him behind you is a really good thing.”
Now that Kahne and his team know their future, he said things were business as usual Friday at Michigan.
“The vibe was good,” Kahne said. “The team was good just pretty similar to always. It was the first time I had seen my guys since the news. A lot of them weren’t at the shop on Monday, so they were told by guys that were at the shop and I was gone at Knoxville this week.
“Today it was cool everybody seemed good. We just kind of went to work like always and hope to put together a really strong weekend.”
Kahne qualified 24th for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 and while he does have three poles and one Michigan win on his resume, he has failed to finish in the top 10 in the last six races in the Irish Hills. He says that while he has had speed, the finishes have not reflected his performance.
“I think over the last few races here, the final restart has put me from like seventh or eighth to 13th – 15th,” Kahne said. “Obviously, the restarts to me, there is a line that you are put in and where you go from there is up to the driver so you have to make things happen in the first and second corner, but as far as the speed of the car that is something that I think we have made some gains in.”
While restart position and speed may be something Kahne needs to work on in Saturday’s practice sessions at Michigan, his desire to race and to win at the top level of racing is still strong, as is his desire to be considered one of the top drivers in the sport.
“I’ve won 18 races myself and we had six wins in one year,” Kahne said. “I just really think I will be able to come up with something that will be very competitive and be able to be in the Cup Series for a while to come. I’ve lived a great part of the sport, been part of all that and I don’t want to be done yet.”