Worth the Wait for Kahne

K.Kahne 5 Car

Kahne's No. 5 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports will be carrying new colors in 2012, in addition to the new driver. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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Kasey Kahne is finally set to make his debut with Hendrick Motorsports this season, taking the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet in 2012.

It’s been a long time coming for Kahne, who originally signed a deal to join the Hendrick stable back in 2010.  But with his four available seats filled at the time, team owner Rick Hendrick worked out a deal allowing Kahne to race for Red Bull last season until he was able to bring him into the fold.

That time finally came with the departure of Mark Martin to Michael Waltrip Racing, and Kahne is thrilled to make the move - at last.

“It was a year of just being excited and trying not to think too much about it because I was trying to take care of where I was at the time,” Kahne said.  “But I always couldn't wait to get in the '5,' couldn't wait to get started on working with the guys over here.”

Once Kahne got to Daytona last month to take part in Preseason Thunder testing, he says he felt right at home in his new surroundings.

“The Daytona test was probably the first time I started to feel like I was part of the team and it's been really good,” Kahne said.  “It's been everything I expected up to this point.  I'm still pretty fresh with the whole deal, so I think it only gets better from here.”

While Kahne has been successful during his Sprint Cup career, he’s had to endure some difficult times racing at NASCAR’s top level.  For a variety of reasons, ownership and economic situations at Evernham Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports and finally Red Bull put Kahne in the middle of circumstances out of his control.  The scenarios forced Kahne to have to perform on the track while business pressures impacted those organizations.

After landing at Hendrick, Kahne finally has the stability that he hasn’t been able to enjoy thus far in his NASCAR life.

“Oh man, stability.  That's a great word,” Kahne laughed.  “Good word to hear.  I have four years here that I know it's going to be stable and competitive, (with) great people and a great team around me.  To be able to be a part of all that is something that I haven't had.  It makes you feel pretty good about where you're at.

“It's taken time.  I've had some really good years in Cup and I've learned a lot from everything.  Now, I'm just in a really solid situation and need to take full advantage of it.”

The resources now at the disposal of Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis are substantial.  Kahne says although he’s very new to the fold, he cannot begin to compare the Hendrick organization with any of his former employers.

“Hendrick is still pretty fresh to me, so I haven't seen everything there for sure and haven't been in the middle of too many things,” Francis said.  “The biggest impression is probably just the amount of cars and the amount of work they've got going on, whether it's for Hendrick Motorsports or for Stewart-Haas or for (James) Finch (Phoenix Racing).  It's an impressive place, to see how many people are just putting their heads together and trying to figure out how to go as fast as we can.”

Everything adds up to Kahne chomping at the bit to get the next phase of his career started.  It’s fitting that the official debut of what many consider the biggest year of his Cup career will come in the sport’s biggest race, the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.

“Just really excited to get started,” Kahne said.  “We've had some really good tests.  It's awesome to be part of Hendrick Motorsports and I'm excited to get to Daytona.  It's a big race and I can't wait to get rolling again."

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kasey Kahne

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