By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
* Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the top-30 drivers in the series leading into next month’s 60th running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: 14
Career Wins: 18 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Victories
A new season means a new team and a new crew chief for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne. Kahne will move from Hendrick Motorsports to pilot the No. 95 Procore Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Leavine Family Racing. He will have former No. 88 car chief Travis Mack as his crew chief at LFR.
Despite a victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and making the 2017 Playoffs, last season was Kahne’s worst since 2007. He earned just three top-fives and six top-10s, the fewest since 2007. Ultimately, the Enumclaw, WA native finished 15th in the Playoff standings.
“I don’t think it’s a lot to get used to,” Kahne explained about transitioning from Hendrick to LFR, “but it’s definitely a different way. Our work is going to be different; like the way we look at things and the way we prepare. My whole mindset is the relationships and doing it together, and the chemistry of the group that we have. It’s a small group compared to what I’ve had the last six years and it’s a group of people who all want to go in the same direction. And I feel like if we do that, and work together, no matter what it is, to make the No. 95 the best car that it can be, we’re going to have success. And the guys all feel the same way. That’s our plan. They’re working really hard to get the new Camaro ZL1’s ready and we’re going to have our first one ready for this test coming up in Vegas next week and we’ll get going from there.”
In the shift from Hendrick to LFR, Kahne will be moving to a Richard Childress Racing alliance team. Another change that is bringing high expectations to Chevrolet teams is a move from the Chevrolet SS to the Camaro ZL1. The new Chevrolet body is expected to be more competitive with the Toyota Camrys that dominated much of the 2017 season.
Kahne, like many in the Chevrolet camp, is excited about the new Camaro,
“I’m excited to drive the Camaro next week. I know there has been a ton of work put into it through Chevrolet, through Ganassi, through Hendrick, and through RCR all together working to give us the best car that we can possibly have when we unload at Daytona. You know it’s going to be better than what we had and we’ll see how all that plays out. You don’t really know for sure until you get behind cars and get in the pack. And that changes. But I know that the work that’s gone into it by so many people has been a huge push and I think it’s going to be good. It’s going to be really good.”
Leavine Family Racing has competed full-time in NASCAR’s Premier Series since 2016. Although, the team debuted in 2011 with David Starr. To date, LFR has one top-five and five top-10s with Michael McDowell and Scott Speed behind the wheel. The team has slowly improved, climbing up to 27th in the Owner’s Championship standings in 2017.
With high expectations for the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, combined with a new crew chief and team, it looks as if Kahne may just have one of his best seasons in recent years.