Kasey Kahne will be out of his Hendrick Motorsports ride at the end of 2017, but that doesn’t mean the Enumclaw, Washington, native will no longer be affiliated with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series organization.
Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick said Wednesday that he is working with Kahne to possibly secure a ride for the 37-year-old for the 2018 season. That ride could have an affiliation with HMS through a possible technical alliance.
The organization announced Monday that Kahne, whose contract was scheduled to end after the ’18 season, would not return to drive the group’s No. 5 Chevrolet next year.
It announced Wednesday that NASCAR XFINITY Series competitor William Byron will replace Kahne.
“I have an obligation to Kasey so I’m paying two drivers next year and I’m also trying to help Kasey in another situation that we could be involved with helping another team,” Hendrick said Wednesday during a teleconference.
“I’m not going to mention the team but I know there are several situations … kind of an alliance, which would be good for everyone. We’re working on it, we’ve been working on it and we’ll just see how it develops.”
In addition to Kahne and the No. 5 entry, HMS fields three other Monster Energy Series teams with drivers Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time series champion, the sport’s most popular driver in Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Chase Elliott, son of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and 1988 series champ Bill Elliott.
Earnhardt is retiring from Monster Energy Series competition at the end of ’17 and will be replaced by Alex Bowman in the group’s No. 88.
The organization has had technical alliances in the past, most notably with Stewart-Haas Racing before that organization left Chevrolet to begin fielding Ford entries this season.
Such technical relationships often involve supplying various parts and pieces such as chassis and/or engines, as well as technical information to another group.
Kahne is an 18-time winner in the Monster Energy Series and his victory last month in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis earned him a spot in this year’s playoffs.
He has 490 career starts entering Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR), and has been at HMS since 2012.
Hendrick said every effort was made to secure funding that would allow Kahne to remain in the No. 5 for 2018.
“We talked to people, we got close to some deals, we had some deals that drug out too long and it wasn’t fair to Kasey or me,” Hendrick said. “Kasey and I talked constantly about having a deadline and having something done.
“But when William is running like William is running — for me I don’t do this for the money, I do this to win and it’s our brand. I’m investing in the future all the time.
“I signed William with no sponsors and was going to run him regardless. That’s been the plan with Chase (Elliott), with William, with Jeff Gordon; that’s been the history of our company.”
Byron, a former NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, won seven races in his only full season in the Camping World Truck Series and currently has three wins in his first full XFINITY Series season. He drives for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Hendrick, Earnhardt Jr., and Kelley Earnhardt Miller.