2017 Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne has a new ride for 2018.
With William Byron taking over his #5 Hendrick Motorsports car in 2018, Kahne will be driving the #95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing that year. The news was released on Tuesday.
“I want to thank Leavine Family Racing for this opportunity and will work as hard as possible to help them continue improving,” Kahne stated. “I am ready for this challenge and look forward to making a fresh start. Bob and everyone at Leavine Family Racing put a lot into their program and I’m excited to become a part of it.”
The #5 has been Kahne’s ride for the last six seasons. Since 2012, he has won four races and has made the playoffs four times (2012–2014, 2017). After the first race of the 2017 playoffs at Chicagoland last Sunday, he sits 15th in points following a 21st-place run. Despite the Indianapolis win last August, Kahne has struggled in recent times compared to his HMS teammates; on Monday, HMS announced #5 crew chief Keith Rodden would be replaced by Darian Grubb for the remainder of the 2017 season.
LFR will mark Kahne’s fifth team since the start of his Cup career in 2004. The 2004 Rookie of the Year has won 18 Cup races with the likes of Evernham Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports, Red Bull Racing Team, and Hendrick Motorsports.
With Kahne’s arrival, this leaves Michael McDowell out of a ride for 2018. McDowell joined the team in 2014, running a part-time schedule before going full-time in 2017, having formed a partnership with Richard Childress Racing a year prior. Since the start of his LFR tenure, he has three top-ten finishes with a best finish of 4th at the 2017 Coke Zero 400. He is currently 25th in points.
“I am very thankful for the 4 years we had @LFR95,” McDowell tweeted. “I am not sure what the future holds but I know Who holds it. Excited for what is next.”
As a result of the driver change, McDowell will seek to join his ninth team since he made his Cup debut in 2008 with Michael Waltrip Racing; in the years since, he has driven for Phil Parsons Racing (under other names like Prism Motorsports and HP Racing), Tommy Baldwin Racing, Whitney Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Front Row Motorsports, and Phoenix Racing. While much of McDowell’s early Cup career has been filled with start-and-park roles, he has since established himself as a solid driver, particularly on road courses, in the Cup and Xfinity Series, the latter in which he won his first NASCAR national series race at Road America in 2016.
RCR, whose alliance with LFR has assisted the Texas-born team in growing its Cup operation, will continue to work with LFR in 2018. In 2016, RCR fielded the #2 Xfinity car for McDowell at Road America; during the season, LFR allowed Childress’ grandson Ty to run sporadic races in the #95 (with McDowell running two races in LFR’s #59).
Featured image by Nigel Kinrade, NKP