News Analysis: Kasey Kahne to drive Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 car

What happened: Leavine Family Racing, which currently fields the No. 95 car with Michael McDowell, announced Kasey Kahne will take over as its full-time driver in 2018. Kahne and Hendrick announced last month they would part ways after this year, but Kahne was ultimately able to remain in the Cup Series with another team.

What it means: Though his new home is certainly a downgrade from powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports, this is a good move for both Kahne and family-run Leavine (pronounced “leh-VINE”). Kahne is only 37 and has some prime years ahead of him, and this will allow him to race in an environment without the pressure that comes with being part of Hendrick. At the same time, Leavine’s performance has been improving over the years — McDowell has been the best car in the Richard Childress Racing alliance at numerous races this year — and figures to only get better with an 18-time race winner in the seat. In addition, Leavine should be able to build a sponsorship program around a driver whose loyal fan base has continued to support him through several miserable seasons at Hendrick.

News value (scale of 1-10): Five. This move was expected for awhile, so it’s not a surprise. It also involves a team that isn’t well known to many fans, though Kahne’s part of the announcement makes it notable enough to get a decent amount of media coverage.

Three questions: Will lowered expectations actually allow Kahne to improve his results (McDowell’s average finish is only one spot behind Kahne this season)? Why did Leavine remain part of the RCR alliance instead of working a deal with Hendrick? Will McDowell be able to remain in NASCAR in some form?

12 Replies to “News Analysis: Kasey Kahne to drive Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 car”

  1. I think this is great for Kasey and this Team will be greatly rewarded, watch and see. Kasey is great talent and Hendrick Motorsports has never fully supported the 5 Team. Look at all the drivers that have driven the 5 and enjoyed no success however, after leaving they were successful. Good Luck Kasey Khane and your new Team. Your a winner regardless of your record at Hendrick which wasn’t that bad.

  2. I remain amazed that Matt Kenseth is apparently going to be forced into retirement and guys like Kahne and Aric Almirola are getting rides.

  3. There have been rumors of RCR going to Dodge in 2019. I find it hard to believe but money and factory support talks. RCR will never be the #1 Chevy team as long as Hendrick is in the fold. With the alliance between the #95 and RCR could this reunite Kasey with Dodge?

  4. When his release was announced I thought ’twas said that Kasey Kahne would find a spot with a Hendrick affiliate.

  5. The part that intrigued me was Leavine saying he hadn’t signed a crew chief and wasn’t counting out reuniting KK with someone from his past. Looks like Kenny Francis is still at HMS as he’s crewing for Chase after today’s bust for cheating. What’s Evernham up to these days?

    1. Keith Rodden was “reassigned” last week. Chances are, he’ll end up on the box with KK and the 95. IMO…. #sillyseason #assumptions

  6. Mixed feelings about this one. Good to see that Kahne has a ride next year and will still be around, but man that sucks for McDowell. Have thought for a while now that he is the most underrated driver in the sport, constantly getting more than he should out of that car. Hopefully he lands on his feet and gets the good oportunity he is clearly deserving of.

  7. Guess I’m the odd man out. I’m not at all happy about it. As a matter of fact…… (I can’t type what I really want to say) but I will say, I’ll take McD over KK any day of the week. ????????????

  8. “Powerhouse Hendricks team” – I hear that a lot, but I’m not sure how true it is. Jimmie and Knaus are a powerhouse team, but the other three cars have been spotty for at least a decade. Earnhardt has 9 wins in 9 years – not powerhouse performance. Jeff Gordon’s last decade wasn’t all roses and lollipops either. The last three years have been a continual downslide to the point where even Jimmie and Knaus only have three top 5’s this year. I suspect Kahne was specifically looking for an opportunity outside of the Hendrick umbrella.

  9. McDowell in second-tier equipment runs one place behind Kahne in
    a Hendrick car. What do we really think is going to happen here? Kahne racing Whitt and the other Earnhardt for last.

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