With a 102-race winless streak hanging over his head more than halfway through the 2017 season and only three top-10 finishes in the first 19 races of the year, the rumor mill has been swirling on what exactly Kasey Kahne’s future would be behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports in 2018 and beyond.
On Sunday afternoon, Kahne silenced the noise surrounding his future by willing his way to a win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, holding off Brad Keselowski for the victory and punching his ticket into the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
“It feels good to win, you know? For all these people that work so hard, it feels good to get into Victory Lane and show that we can do it if things go our way,” said Kahne in victory lane.
Prior to Indianapolis, there were talks throughout the sport on whether Kahne still had what it took to win in NASCAR’s premier division, prompting Kahne to tweet out a message in June that he wasn’t through yet. Fast forward to Sunday, Kahne’s message rings even more true after his Brickyard win.
So, what did car owner Rick Hendrick have to say about Kahne’s win and future with the team?
“Puts him in the Chase, in the Playoffs,” said Hendrick. “You know, we’re excited about that. I hope this turns the corner. The team’s had a lot of bad luck. Pocono is a good race for Kasey and Keith. We’ll go up there and try to do it again.”
“Our plans are not set for the 5 car. So, you know, you guys asked me that this morning, and I told you, you know, that we hadn’t made any plans yet. There’s nothing concrete or done, and that hasn’t changed. We’ll see how things shake out, you know, the rest of the year. There’s a lot of things involved, sponsors and a lot of things we look at. We’re going to try hard. But there’s no decisions made at this time.”
While Hendrick danced around whether Kahne would be in the car next season, Kahne was more optimistic about his future going forward.
“I think this just shows I still want to win races,” said Kahne. “This shows that I gave it all that I can to get a win. It shows that I’m passionate about driving stockcars, that I can still win races, too.”
“I have a deal through 2018 with Hendrick Motorsports. Hear a lot of things, but tough to say exactly what’s going to happen because I don’t know at this point this time. I know me and Mr. H will figure it out.”
“But I think this just shows that I want to do it, and that I still have the drive and passion to do it, and I enjoy it. So I’m going to keep trying hard, I know that.”