DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kasey Kahne has heard the speculation that he could be out at Hendrick Motorsports after this season, even though he has a year left on his contract.
What does he say about his future?
“I want to be in a good situation,’’ said Kahne, who qualified fourth for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. “I want to be wanted. I want to perform. I want to race well. I just work hard every week. I’m part of the team. I do everything I can to try to do a better job. I listen to criticism from my guys. I criticize when that needs to be done in that direction, and we work hard to go into the next race.
“The problem is that we don’t perform as well as we need to. We just need to figure that side of things out. I think everyone else is really good. I have a great relationship with everybody on my team, including Keith (Rodden, crew chief). Every one of us, we like each other, we get along, but we don’t perform for the entire race on Sundays like we need to. We keep digging into that every week.’’
Questions about Kahne’s future have been fueled by the team’s need for sponsorship next year and his results.
Great Clips announced in May that it would end its sponsorship of Kahne’s team after this season. Great Clips is to sponsor 10 races this season. Farmer’s Insurance announced last fall that it would not renew its sponsorship after this season. Farmer’s Insurance is to be the primary sponsor for 12 races.
Kahne, who is in his sixth season at Hendrick Motorsports, has not finished better than 15th in the last six races and is 21st in the points. He’ll likely need a win or risk missing the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
Kahne repeatedly said he remains passionate about racing despite his struggles.
“If I was to wake up in the mornings and not feel like racing, or not have the urge or go to my debriefs and call in and be part of the deal and try to get better, then you probably know that time is about up,’’ Kahne said. “I actually still think about it non-stop and try to understand why we don’t run good and how we can run better, how I can do a better job. It’s all that I want and all that I think about.
“There are challenges for sure, but my head is still in the right place and I think that’s a big part of running well and getting things turned around.’’
He’s failed to finish four of the last five races because of accidents. He crashed on the final lap last weekend at Sonoma after contact from Kevin O’Connell and placed 24th. He had brake issues and crashed at Pocono, placing 35th. He was collected in a crash at the end of the Dover race and finished 17th. He crashed in the Coca-Cola 600 and finished 35th.
“It’s discouraging, but there’s really nothing I’ve been able to do about any of those weeks and that’s probably even more discouraging.’’ Kahne said. “We broke two parts and crashed. We got taken out at the end of the Dover race. They were wrecking in front of us and a car came across the whole track and ran me into the inside wall. And then Sonoma. Not one of those situations could have changed. I don’t know what you do differently other than just work hard for the next race and do the best you can.’’
The 37-year-old says he wants to be racing in Cup until he’s at least 43 years old, if not older, but he understands his performance needs to improve.
“I still feel really good,’’ said Kahne, who has three top-10 finishes in 16 races and has led seven laps since the beginning of last season. “I still want to do it really bad. It’s a performance sport. If I’m doing what I’m doing now, I’m not going to be here in five years.’’