Kasey Kahne spent much of his final trip to Las Vegas as a Hendrick Motorsports driver duly celebrating his time with the championship team and eagerly anticipating a big change in his career: A move to the single-car Leavine Family Racing operation for the 2018 season.
The week was a festive time of good memories and frequent assurances that more good times are coming.
“Truthfully, I was fine if the season kept going a little longer,” Kahne, 37, said with a big smile. “I enjoy a lot of the guys on my team, a lot of the people at (Hendrick) so I was having fun working with those guys.
“You always want better performance, but we had that at times. So it was an all-right ending and a lot of good friends there that will carry on as we start something new.”
Kahne finished out his six-year, six-win tenure in the Hendrick No. 5 Chevrolet with a playoff run that ended in the Round of 16, but gave a glimpse of why this year’s Brickyard 400 winner has been a contender in NASCAR’s highest levels.
The team brought in Darian Grubb to serve as crew chief in the final nine races. While a pair of finishes outside the top 20 in the opening two playoff races put the team in a hole, Kahne did rebound with a pair of top 10s after he was eliminated — ninth place (Charlotte) and eighth place (Talladega) during the playoff stretch.
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It’s all been good preparation for a fresh start next year and Kahne said he’s already been to his new digs to meet his new team and start prepping the car for his LFR debut in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.
“This week I went over there, once we start getting seats and things I’ll be over more and more involved, making sure everything is how I want it,” Kahne said. “I’m already starting to learn the people, learn the names and start making some relationships.”
In the meantime, Kahne said he will simultaneously be cherishing the downtime and looking forward to preparing for the 2018 season – changes and all.
“I’m going to do Chili Bowl and look forward to the holidays with (son) Tanner, go to the beach and watch him learn the holidays a bit,” Kahne said. “It will be fun. Then it’s about putting the time in. I hope we’ll do the Vegas [preseason] test, so as long as we get that, it will help a lot. I love racing. That’s about all I think about other than Tanner.”