CONCORD, N.C. – Having his name become grist for the NASCAR rumor mill isn’t taking a toll on Kasey Kahne.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver was linked to a report about the future of Kevin Harvick that was debunked Thursday when Harvick signed a long-term extension with Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick said Friday he had told Kahne two months ago that he hadn’t been contacted by anyone at Hendrick.
In a Friday interview with NBC Sports, Kahne said he had gotten acclimated to the speculation.
“Those rumors have been out for a while now,” he said. “It hasn’t been distracting to me. I’ve been kind of fine with it because I know where I’m at. I know I have a deal through 2018.
“So it is what it is. People can come up with different ways to have a story, I guess. I think it was a story, and it probably worked out well for Harvick to have that going on once in a while.”
Kahne missed the playoffs last season for the first time since joining Hendrick in 2012, posting 10 top 10s – his lowest total in five years.
“That’s probably why some of those rumors come out is we don’t have the results that we should have or that we want,” he said. “So we just have to keep working and hopefully, we can figure out where all the speed lies, and we can win races again.”
The most recent of Kahne’s 17 Sprint Cup victories came in August 2014 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a 59-race winless drought that is the second longest of his career.
“I’d say it’s definitely been the most frustrating time since I’ve been in NASCAR,” Kahne said. “The first year at Hendrick was really good. We brought a lot to the table. So we took off strong, and I thought we were really good. We could have won a lot more races. Since that point, it’s probably been the most frustrating time since I’ve been in Cup or in racing in general.”
There have been glimmers of hope lately for his No. 5 Chevrolet, which notched fourths at Richmond International Raceway and Dover International Speedway (though a 15-point penalty for a post-race violation knocked him to 20th in the rankings). With two top fives through 12 races, Kahne nearly has matched his total (three) from each of the past two seasons.
“I just have to keep working hard and keep working at it,” he said. “Trying to put the pieces together and figure out where our struggles are and make those better. It’s myself doing a better job, it’s (crew chief) Keith (Rodden) doing a better job. It’s every person on our team and then having the support of the company.
“All that is getting better. I think if we go in those directions we’ll win races again.”