Daytona 500 2012: Kasey Kahne Excited To Begin His First Season with Hendrick Motorsports

Throughout Kasey Kahne's career, there have been two constants.

One, as evident by his 12 Cup victories and two appearances in the Chase, is that Kahne is an immensely talented driver. The second is the continued instability that has surrounded him like his own personal black cloud.

In seven full seasons, Kahne has driven for four different owners, three different manufacturers, endured numerous fluxes in ownership and continual concerns whether his team had enough money to go racing each week.

Now entering his eighth year, Kahne will again be driving for a new car owner – Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports – and his fourth different manufacturer – Chevrolet – in as many seasons.

But unlike past years, 2012 isn't going to be another season of uncertainty. Instead, this year will represent something Kahne hasn't had a lot of in his career – stability.

Almost two years after he was tabbed by Rick Hendrick to replace Mark Martin behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet, Kahne is finally going to make his debut for the organization which has brought home 10 of the last 17 Sprint Cup championships.

Now, for the first time ever, Kahne will be wheeling equipment befitting his talent. There will be no more shady, absentee owners who don't pay their bills. Gone are the concerns on whether his team is going to be around the following year.

For Kahne, this opportunity has been a long time coming and now allows him to focus on the thing he does best.

"You just feel really confident," Kahne said Thursday during NASCAR's annual Media Day at Daytona International Speedway. "You know what you have. You know what your owner expects and he can expect it because he gives his employees and all the guys that opportunity to build and prepare cars capable of doing what he expects out of it.

"When you are in that situation as a driver, you just can't not be happy about it."

A big boost to Kahne's fortunes this season is he will be working with longtime crew chief Kenny Francis. The pair has worked together and won races at Evernham Motorsports, Gillett-Evernham Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports and, last year, at Red Bull Racing.

Their success under continually difficult and ever-changing circumstances, along with the resources at their disposal at Hendrick, has raised the bar this season on what to expect out of Kahne.

"For me, I would say a successful year would be consistency and to win races," Kahne said. "We have been close for a little while now. I just feel like we have a really good team. We have the best engines we have ever had. There are a lot of parts and pieces that are going to be there for us and we have a lot of great guys to lean on as well.

"It's going to be an awesome year, but I think consistency, winning races would be great for us right now."

What Kahne is hoping for in his first year with his new team is the same kind of season the guy he's replacing had in his first year driving for Hendrick Motorsports.

In 2009, his first year as Casey Mears' replacement, Martin scored victories at Phoenix, Darlington, Michigan, Chicagoland and New Hampshire, and finished second in the standings to teammate Jimmie Johnson.

There's no reason Kahne can't duplicate that success. In fact, Hendrick expects it.

"I'm going to be really disappointed if we don't have all four cars in the Chase and I'm going to be really disappointed if we don't win the championship," Hendrick said three weeks ago at the Hendrick Motorsports stop during NASCAR Media Tour. "I can't remember having four teams this solid, this strong, at the beginning of the year.

"I think we're as prepared as we've ever been and if we don't get it (the championship) it's going to be our fault."

But instead of downplaying those lofty expectations, Kahne is embracing them and wants to do everything he can to please his new boss.

"It is really exciting to hear Mr. Hendrick talk about what he expects for the season," Kahne said. "We are a part of that now, so we need to step up and show him that we want to make him happy.

"When you go to Hendrick Motorsports, you know you have the car and the engines and all the opportunity to succeed. We just have to be sure that we communicate really well throughout the season and stay on top of it. We will have a great year."

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