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NASCAR Notes: Kahne Signs New Deal With Hendrick

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 20 2014

Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne will remain teammates it was announced Thursday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Kasey Kahne, fresh off making his third straight appearance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs, has signed a new contract with Hendrick Motorsports.

The deal is for three years, beginning with 2015.

“It’s extremely gratifying to work with a driver like Kasey,” Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, said. “I think the world of him both as a driver with championship-level talent and an overall terrific young man. Our whole organization has a great deal of respect for how hard he works, the professionalism he displays with our partners and the way he carries himself every day. We’re committed to winning races and competing for titles with him for many years to come.”

Kahne, 34, originally signed with Hendrick Motorsports in April 2010 and officially joined the team’s four-car stable for the 2012 season. Over the past three years (2012-14), he ranks among the top-10 drivers in Sprint Cup wins (5), pole positions (4), top-five finishes (26) and laps led (1,177). The Enumclaw, Washington, native has 17 career wins in NASCAR’s top division.

“I’ve found a home at Hendrick Motorsports,” said Kahne, who since 2012 has earned at least one victory each season while securing three consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths. “We have incredible people and partners supporting us, and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction we’re headed as a team and a company. It’s the right place for me, and I’m looking forward to being here for a long time.”

The HMS driver lineup for 2015 will remain: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kahne.

The Kahne announcement comes a day after HMS announced that Kenny Francis, Kahne’s long-time crew chief, will have a new job next season.

Francis will fill the new position of vehicle technical director and Keith Rodden as crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet SS team of driver Kahne. The roles take effect immediately.

Francis, 44, will oversee organization-wide car design and development with day-to-day management of Hendrick Motorsports’ chassis, body, research and development, on-track testing, vehicle engineering and simulation programs. Reporting to general manager Doug Duchardt, he will serve as the primary liaison between Hendrick Motorsports’ crew chiefs and its vehicle group.

Rodden will return to Hendrick Motorsports where he worked alongside Francis in 2012 and 2013 while the lead engineer for Kahne and the No. 5 team. For 2014, he was named crew chief for the No. 1 team at Chip Ganassi Racing where he won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, earned two pole positions and helped driver Jamie McMurray set a career-best season in laps led.

“This is a great opportunity for both guys, and it will strengthen our overall organization,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “With the new rules for next year, it’s more important than ever to have a strong vehicle development program. Unifying those efforts for the first time under Kenny’s guidance will be critical to our success. It plays to his experience as a leader, innovative engineer and race-winning crew chief. He’s just tailor-made for it.

“Keith is one of the most talented young crew chiefs in the garage. He already knows our culture and works extremely well with our people. The relationships and familiarity he has with Kenny, Kasey and the No. 5 team will make it easy to hit the ground running. We talk a lot about ‘fit factor,’ and this definitely falls into that category. He’s the right fit.”

Also starting the 2015 Cup season with a new crew chief will be Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray.

Filling the role will be Matt McCall.

McCall comes over from Richard Childress Racing where he most recently has been the race engineer for the No. 31 Chevrolet that made it to the Championship round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, ultimately finishing the season second in the championship point standings.

McCall is also a former driver who has competed in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series.

McMurray will begin his 13th full-time season in the NSCS in 2015. The 2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 Winner added another big win to his resume this year with a victory in the 2014 Sprint All-Star race. In nearly 450 career NSCS starts he has accumulated seven wins, 11 poles, 121 top-10 and 52 top-five finishes.

“We are very pleased to add a crew chief like Matt to what we feel is a team and program that is certainly on the rise and feel that he can take it to the next level,” team owner Chip Ganassi said. “Matt brings a lot to the table that we are thrilled to have. He has been a successful race engineer for the No. 31 team and has the added experience of being a driver, which we feel will add to his success in leading the No. 1 team. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will mesh very well with Jamie and the whole team. We couldn’t be happier.”

McMurray, who finished 18th in points and withouth a win in 2014, said, “I am really looking forward to 2015 and beginning to work with Matt. As a team, I think we will carry a lot of momentum into Daytona and the hiring of Matt will continue to move the program forward.”

Stewart-Haas Racing, has hired Rex Stump as its technical director, effective immediately.

Stump comes to Stewart-Haas Racing after an 18-year career at Hendrick Motorsports. There, he founded the organization’s research and development program and has been instrumental in chassis design and technology.

“Rex brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and innovation to Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition, Stewart-Haas Racing. “You can never sit still in this business, and Rex’s record of success will help us stay ahead of the curve.”

“Hendrick Motorsports provided me a lot of opportunities to succeed and I wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for Rick Hendrick, Ray Evernham and all the talented people I’ve worked with the last 18 years,” Stump said. “I’m proud of my time there, but I’m looking forward to my new role at Stewart-Haas. This is a team that’s accomplished a lot in a very short period of time. There’s a championship to defend and races to win. I’m ready to go.”

Stump was a driving force – and the namesake – of Jeff Gordon’s T-Rex car that was banned by NASCAR after by NASCAR after it dominated the 1997 All-Star Race.

Stump graduated from Kettering University (formerly the General Motors Institute) in 1989 with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical and automotive engineering.

Another of Stump’s notable accomplishments was the development of Hendrick Motorports’ Car of Tomorrow

NASCAR has released the names of the winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards in its regional touring series. As voted by fans, the drivers are:

– Ben Rhodes (Louisville, Ky.), NASCAR K&N Pro Series East

– Brandon McReynolds (Mooresville, N.C.), NASCAR K&N Pro Series West

– J.R. Fitzpatrick (Ayr, Ont.), NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1

– Rodrigo Marban (Mexico City), NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series

– Freddy Nordstrom (London), NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

– Melissa Fifield (Wakefield, N.H.), NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

– Andy Seuss (Hampstead, N.H.), NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 20 2014
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