Hendrick Motorsports created a rumbling tidal wave of news over the last week, setting a course for its future.
In short, Alex Bowman is the next man up in the No. 88, Dale Earnhardt Jr. admits to an “adrenaline rush” working in the booth next season, and Kasey Kahne finally has found some mojo, dispelling some scuttlebutt that his run with one of NASCAR’s elite teams was in jeopardy.
For all the talk circling back to Junior Nation, Kasey’s moment was bigly, as they say these days.
His victory at the Brickyard 400 snapped a losing streak that dates to Atlanta in 2014, a stretch of 102 races.
“Oh, man, it’s been a while since I’ve won, so you have to wonder. As a driver, all I want to do is win; all I want to do is perform,” Kahne said. “I put the effort in each week, whether it’s at the shop, whether it’s physically, mentally, at the race shop trying to prepare, watching videos, looking through old notes, how can we be better.”
No doubt, but the mental wear and tear had to be a grind. Just a few weeks ago, Kahne was addressing speculation that he may be bounced from the team, even though he has a year left on his contract.
“I want to be in a good situation,” Kahne said after qualifying fourth for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway earlier this month. “I want to be wanted. I want to perform.”
It’s a tough deal, too, when you compare and contrast. Teammate Jimmie Johnson is a seven-time Cup champion. Earnhardt will go down as one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR history. Chase Elliott is a rising young star.
Kahne, 37, has the look of a younger brother who tags along for the Big Kids birthday party only because Mom insisted.
“It just kind of feels like you’re out on your own little deal a lot of times, your own little island, trying to do the best that you can,” Kahne said. “Things don’t work out too often for us.”
But the stars are aligned at Hendrick Motorsports beyond the Kasey Question. Bowman will replace Junior in the No. 88 next season,…