News Analysis: Kasey Kahne out at Hendrick Motorsports

What happened: Kasey Kahne will not return to Hendrick Motorsports in 2018, the team announced Monday morning. Though Kahne had a contract with Hendrick through next year, the team chose to release the Brickyard 400 winner and go with a yet-to-be-determined driver for the No. 5 car next season. Kahne is now a free agent and can sign with another team for 2018.

What it means: This is the inevitable divorce of a marriage that had been on the rocks for some time. When Kahne arrived at Hendrick, both he and the team had sky-high hopes. The driver, who once won six races in a season, even spent a year at Red Bull waiting for Mark Martin to vacate the No. 5. But despite two wins in each of his first two seasons at Hendrick, Kahne never found his footing there. He had just three top-five finishes in each of the last three years and missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. And as it turned out, his recent Indianapolis win and subsequent playoff berth this season wasn’t enough to save his job at Hendrick. But you know what? That’s not a bad thing. Kahne has long needed a fresh start with a team that believes in him — and vice versa — to give him a chance to regularly win again in the Cup Series. It’s been hard to watch Kahne struggle so much in the last few years, but perhaps this means there are brighter days ahead. After all, he’s only 37 and drivers don’t seem to start declining until their early 40s. Kahne is still capable of racking up a few wins per season if he finds the right team.

News value (scale of 1-10): Five. Fitting, right? But seriously, this lands as about average news because it’s something most people anticipated but is still noteworthy when it actually went down. If Kahne’s replacement had been named in the same announcement, it would have been much higher on the scale.

Three questions: Does this mean William Byron will be in the No. 5 next year, or will Hendrick look to a veteran like Matt Kenseth to fill the seat? What are the chances Kahne could end up in another top ride, such as the vacancy at Stewart-Haas Racing or Furniture Row Racing? Will this decision being made public alleviate any pressure on Kahne and allow him to make a run in the playoffs?

21 Replies to “News Analysis: Kasey Kahne out at Hendrick Motorsports”

  1. I sincerely hope Hendrick does not move Byron up to Cup in 2018. He’s a good driver but would like to see him age a bit and run a few Cup races next year.

      1. No better experience than putting his butt in the seat of a cup car.

        These younger drivers don’t need more experience, they’ve been racing since they could walk(a majority, not all)

  2. Two words for this article: Harry Gant! He became “Mr September at age 50+ !

    NASCAR is NOT the NFL-Drivers don’t “decline” at age 40+. How about all the wins Dale SR had age 40+? Same for Terry Labonte. He was 40 when he won his second Winston Cup. His brother Bobby won the 2000 Winston Cup at age 36…shall I go on about other drivers who have done EXCEEDINGLY well age 40+ in MANY racing disciplines?

    I really could go on and on about “aging in racing” (Edie Hill driving 300 MPH+ at age 71!! ) and success in this sport well into your 40’s and 50’s… but suffice to say that a steering wheel has NO IDEA how “old” you are!

    The problem is that some egg head in NASCAR came up with the idea that to be a “marketable driver” in NASCAR you need to be just out of diapers to be qualified to drive at NASCAR’s “highest level”….. this all started with Jeff Gordon.

    Drivers are leaving the sport because of the outrageously long season and the grind this entails. Because NASCAR keeps going to the trough with this “long” season, there is virtually NO WAY that someone can be a Cup driver and have some semblance of a “normal” life.

    So they are now leaving the sport while they are still physically capable of driving a race car. I know from whence I speak-Im 50 and race with with most of the guys here at my local short track being OLDER than I am…..

    So lets get off of the “kick” that ” drivers don’t seem to start declining until their early 40s”….because that’s just BUNK! (for lack of a desire to cuss here….)

    This is soooooo obviously written from a Millenials egocentric point of view.

    As far as Kahne himself, the 5 team has always seemed more like the Hendricks “experimental team” and ever since “old man” Terry Labonte left that team its been, for the most part, an “also ran” in importance. To truly measure his talent level it would be interesting to see Kahne in a JGR or Penske ride….

    Learn some racing history Gluck, NASCAR history in particular. The “youth” movement in NASCAR is partly why so many of the sports fans have left….

    1. To be fair to Jeff, when Sr and Harry Gant were racing the average age of drivers were MUCH older than they are now. Was Sr’s capabilities declining against a crop of older drivers? Maybe not so much. Against a crop of super talented young 20s? Absolutely.

      1. To anon:
        …and the seasons of the day were shorter (less wear and tear on the driver).

        Drivers got into Cup only AFTER proving their metal in the Busch series. And, as I remember, SR was beating the likes of legends in Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Darrrell Waltrip, Davey Allison, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Kyle Petty, Labonte(s), Bill Elliott, Ernie Irvin, all of them in their 30’s and 40’s running on one and 2 car teams.

        You are right, SR and Gant were facing a “lesser quality of drivers”.

        I DON”T THINK SO Skippy!

        The “younger drivers” of that time, save for Jeff Gordon, were back markers who never would get a shot at a top ride until they developed with lesser cars. Now we are in an era where you can get on a top team without ANY prior racing success. An example-Danica Patrick,….

        I believe that Kahne could be a lot of fun to watch driving for another team…..but his age has NOTHING to do with it..

        1. LOL, “Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Darrrell Waltrip, Davey Allison, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Kyle Petty, Labonte(s), Bill Elliott, Ernie Irvin”

          Only Gordon, Allison and Bobby Labonte would have been considered youngsters when compared to Sr. The rest of the drivers you listed were all in the same relative age group as Sr. (+ or – 5 years).

          You really need to take a step back and look at the stats and ages of the drivers you are using to make your argument instead of just shooting from the hip and throwing out a bunch of half truths,

    2. Maybe you should check the statistics for drivers that win over the age of 40. Yes, you are correct, drivers could stay out there well into their 50s but that doesn’t mean drivers under 40 aren’t more productive (more wins, more top fives, more top tens). BTW, I am 56 so you can’t use the “he’s bias” argument. I am strictly using statistics. It is well documented that 90% of drivers stats decline once they reach 40. I’d also recommend you only look at stats from 2000 on. Prior to 2000 the average age of cup drivers was probably 35. The point being, someone has to win and if most of the drivers are over 35 then, most likely, a drive over 35 will win. In the mid-90’s and early 00’s more and more 20-somethings were being put in top tier rides. Once younger drivers started going head to head with older drivers, and the younger drivers were being given some top tier rides, it became apparent that by the mid-40s a driver’s stats started to plummet. Of course there will always be a exception or two but the stats don’t lie.

      1. Earnhardt SR. competed with Bobby Labonte(age 36) at age 49 and ALMOST WON the 2000 Winston Cup.

        Even Mark Martin was once quoted as saying that he did not realize just how bad the driving had gotten in Cup until he started racing Trucks, which at the time had a lot of the “older” drivers racing in them. He stated that the drivers in truck were MUCH BETTER than the young ones in CUP…..

        Across the history of NASCAR you need to use ALL the stats to begin to see the reality of when a RACE drivers abilities start to decline. HUNDREDS of stock car races have been won at 40+. Probably a decided majority have been, even including todays modern age. Can you say Richard Petty who had to take on the young lions in his day-and he won against them! Look at the NHRA with drivers winning races and championships well BEYOND the “magical” age 40 mark….Can you say John Force?

        Sorry-but the current crop of young drivers could not handle what we used to have in cup. Could you imagine them trying to handle “the Intimidator” or “Mr. Excitement” or, dare I say “Swervin Irvin” ? How about Cale Yarbourough? Unfortunately the drivers who start careers at age 19 will in NO WAY be driving at 40+.

        So instead of us enjoying watching seasoned drivers with the BEST abilities to drive a Stock Car born of EXPERIENCE in lesser series, we are stuck with drivers basically cutting their teeth in the top series sans any REAL development and the quality of racing suffers with them….

        …….of course what we have today isn’t anything resembling NASCAR in its best days so what do you expect? (besides dismal ratings and torpedoed attendance…)

        But that’s a debate for another time and place…..

  3. Say what you want, your abilities don’t get better with age. Of course experience can somewhat offset that. But in the case of one of the drivers who has been touted by others for his abilities well past the age most would have retired, me thinks his car being the first to take advantage of the cambered rearend had something to do with it. And thats the unknown quality isn’t it, how good or bad the equipment is.
    The one thing that never stops is the rotation of drivers as Father Time has his way.

  4. Overall, It was not working….I think a CC shake up may of helped this team. Ever since they split up the Kahne, Francis & Rodden trio Kasey has struggled. I think HMS overall is struggling. They are hit and miss weekly now. Even the 24 whom started off at the front every week at best is a later half of the top 10 car most weeks now. At the end of the day I hate this for Kasey. If there is a nicer guy in the garage I have not met him. He is the best driver out there with the kids! I hope he lands a quality ride.

  5. It’s garbage that a team can punt a contract. They shouldn’t be allowed to run the car until the expiration of the contract.

    1. So would you apply this to all other sports as well? What about business? If I had a contract with you to deliver widgets and then I decide to go with someone else should I have to close my business for a year? No. The worse case scenario would be that I have to pay you what we agreed upon in the contract (or go to court and prove there was a reason for ending the contract) even if you don’t deliver a single widget. So in this case, if Kasey doesn’t get a contract then HMS should have to pay him his base salary. If someone picks him up for less, then HMS should have to pay the difference.

    2. Okay Mr. Business Man. Kasey didn’t just get a phone call from Rick and say “that’s fine” because he is a nice boy. Obviously there was a provision in the contract that allowed for its termination and it was exercised. Whatever that provision was was negotiated by Kasey’s agent and signed off on by Kasey himself, because he is a big boy and you, apparently, are not.

      1. Not sure what you’re point is. Are you agreeing with the comment to which I was replying “that the 5 car shouldn’t be allowed to run until the expiration date of the contract”? My point was that if there wasn’t a clause in the contract that allowed HMS to part ways, that the worst case scenarios for HMS would be that they’d have to pay Kasey (not shut down the 5 team).
        And what exactly in my comment had anything to do with being a big boy?
        You may be a big boy but obviously you aren’t very smart.

        1. Well I wasn’t talking to you for one thing, smartass. I was replying to the same guy you were. It is no fault of mine that this website’s comment section doesn’t make that as clear as it should, but failing that, if you were as smart as you present yourself to be it should have been blindingly obvious regardless who I was talking to.

  6. At this rate, in 2018 Kahne, Kenseth, Biffle and Sadler could legally be running in the xfinity series. Laugh My Ass Off!

  7. It’s just so sad 😢 I really, really hate to see all these drivers losing their rides ( I’m a huge #MyManMatt fan, my heart is broke and I’m worried about him for next year) but I’m also looking forward to this new talent coming into the series, It’s gonna be exciting.

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