BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 26:  Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 26, 2016 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Kasey Kahne on recent turnaround: “We’re all enjoying (racing) again”

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – Kasey Kahne has again found the enjoyment that comes with being a racecar driver.

“It’s fun to drive (the cars),” Kahne told NBC Sports about how well the No. 5 team has been performing lately. “It’s great to work with everybody right now and we’re all enjoying (racing) again.”

In the last 10 races, Kahne has earned six top-10 finishes, including a season-best third place at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago. Kahne has been noticeably happier around the Sprint Cup Series garage while praising Hendrick Motorsports for the cars the organization has been bringing to the racetrack.

It’s a much different scene from the first half of the season. With just six top-10 finishes in the first 17 races, including one DNF, Kahne and crew chief Keith Rodden struggled to find a common balance. The areas the team worked in didn’t translate to any improvements. Kahne failed to make the Chase for the second consecutive year.

Then suddenly, the team hit on it.

“They’ve all been working in the right areas, which you can work really hard in other areas and not always make those gains but for whatever reason, this swing at it the guys have worked in all the right areas,” Kahne said. “They’ve all worked together, put their heads together and figured where we were lacking and how we need to be better. And we’re still getting better each week, still improving, which is great, especially this time of year for Jimmie (Johnson) and Chase (Elliott), who are battling for a championship. To still have the cars being improved is incredible.”

When asked in what specific areas the team worked to find improvements, Kahne noted the biggest difference didn’t have to do with the car at all. Yes, he admits, Hendrick Motorsports has found more speed, but his group of guys has also worked hard at being better together. That includes the communication between engineers and the crew chiefs and the trust they have in what Kahne is saying.

“Things that we didn’t have early in the year and we’ve been building, making better each week for the last seven or eight,” Kahne said.

That includes the relationship between Kahne and Rodden. Kahne admits it took time for the two to get on the same page. Rodden analyzed things one way. Kahne communicated things in another. There was also a certain feel the driver was looking for.

“So it took some time to get that trust in each other and the direction we need to go and both of us be behind one another,” Kahne said. “Not just him being behind me, but me being behind him, and that goes along with our engineers, as well.”

Now, Kahne says he and Rodden talk every day, every week. While he has yet to lead a lap this season, Kahne has nine consecutive top-15 finishes, which lead the series. His average finish since Bristol in late August has been 9.0, which is second-best in the series.

Kahne considers it being back on a high. The team survived the low, which he said goes back to last year, and stayed together. It makes it more fun, Kahne said, to make the improvements they have. The goal is to end the year on this high and build toward 2017.

With his contract at Hendrick Motorsports expiring at the end of the 2018 season, Kahne stated in August if he hasn’t performed by then, he would “need to leave.” Kahne stands by his statement, but that doesn’t mean he’s put any additional pressure on himself.

“That’s why I’m here,” Kahne said. “I’m racing in the Sprint Cup Series to perform and to do well and to be at Hendrick Motorsports you have that opportunity because Mr. (Hendrick) gives it to us. There were times we were maybe a little behind as a company, but overall, everything’s right there and it’s how we take it and what we do with it as a team. We’ve been doing a much better with it. If we keep doing this, then our performance is going to keep improving and we’ll be winning races again and everybody’s going to be happy.”

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In need of a wedding singer? Call Steven Tyler

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 05:  Singer Steven Tyler performs during his "Out on a Limb" tour at the Dolby Theatre on July 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ABA)
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ABA
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Steven Tyler has performed with Aerosmith in a video for ESPN back when it broadcast NASCAR races. Tyler also has performed before the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Now, he’s played Kurt Busch‘s wedding.

What more is left for the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer?

Tyler performed at a celebration for the marriage of Kurt and Ashley Busch earlier this month. Kurt Busch posted a photo of the evening.

That NASCAR-themed video Tyler did with Aerosmith for the 2007 season? Here it is:

Before he performed at Bristol in Aug. 2015, Tyler met Richard Petty:

Chip Ganassi Racing adds competition director

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Team owner Chip Ganassi looks on as drivers perpare on Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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Chip Ganassi Racing has hired Mark McArdle to be its competition director, a new position for the organization.

McArlde will oversee the team’s two Cup teams — Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray — and its Xfinity operation, which features Brennan Poole, Tyler Reddick, Justin Marks and Larson.

McArdle had been with Roush Fenway Racing. He joined the team in Nov. 2014 to oversee engineering for its Cup and Xfinity programs. He previously had been director of racing operations at Richard Childress Racing, joining that organization in April 2013. He spent four years before that at Furniture Row Racing, overseeing the team’s competition department.

At Ganassi, McArdle will report to Max Jones, team manager.

Last year marked the first time in the team’s history that it had two cars make the Cup playoffs. Both Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, though, failed to advance from the first round. Larson, who had one win, finished ninth in the points. McMurray, who was winless, placed 13th.

“I think everybody in the building feels like we took a good step forward last year,’’ said Steve Lauletta, president of Chip Ganassi Racing. “We’re not happy with the step we took. We have more to do. So, being able to bring more of the leadership into the building that can focus on how we get there, the process that we need, we continue to bring on more people.

“I think Max feels like another person can help us make sure that everybody is focused on the right thing and we’re not wasting time and resources. Mark brings a tremendous amount of expertise to continue that growth that we’ve seen.’’

JR Motorsports to keep championship-contending tandem together

SPARTA, KY - JULY 07:  Elliott Sadler, driver of the #1 OneMain Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway on July 7, 2016 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images
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JR Motorsports confirmed Tuesday that crew chief Kevin Meendering will remain with Elliott Sadler this season.

Meendering and Sadler recorded three Xfinity wins last year in their first season together. Meendering also helped Sadler score a career-best 29 top-10 results and finish runner-up for the series title to Daniel Suarez.

The announcement was included in a team release about Hunt Brothers Pizza serving as the primary sponsor for Sadler’s car in two races in each of the next two seasons.

Wood Brothers give a tour of new race shop

LOUDON, NH - JULY 15:  Ryan Blaney, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 16, 2016 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images
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The Wood Brothers begin this season not only with a charter but with a new home.

The team had shared a building with JTG Daugherty in Harrisburg, North Carolina, but moved after last season to a shop in Mooresville, North Carolina. The move puts the Wood Brothers closer to Team Penske. The two organizations are aligned.

The Wood Brothers will again have Ryan Blaney as driver. The team also has a charter, leasing it from Go Fas Racing. That means the Wood Brothers team is guaranteed a starting spot in every Cup race this year, unlike last year when they did not have a charter.