Daytona 500 2012: Is 2012 the Year Kasey Kahne Becomes a Title Contender?

Hugo OlguinContributor IIIFebruary 21, 2012

Kasey Kahne gets a fresh start this season.
Kasey Kahne gets a fresh start this season.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Kasey Kahne's career has been like a roller coaster ride. 

After winning six races in 2006 and finishing eighth in points, he has won only five races since and has only finished once in the top 10 in points.

Kahne and his crew chief Kenny Francis have dealt with instability with their car owners.  

Ownership changed from Evernham Motorsports to Gillett-Evernham Motorsports to Richard Petty Motorsports.

During those ownership changes, there were always questions if the team would shut down due to financial troubles.

Questions came about about how good the equipment was that Kahne had to drive.

Finally, Kahne left and spent one year at Red Bull Racing in 2011.  Once Kahne joined, Red Bull announced that the company was going to shut down the race team at the end of the season.

Kahne was able to secure one win for Red Bull before it shut down.

Now we come to 2012 and Kasey Kahne gets to drive for Hendrick Motorsports.

This is without a doubt the best team Kahne has gotten to drive for in his entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.

Both Kahne and Francis will have top-tier equipment and support from the other Hendrick teams.  

With all this great equipment and opportunity comes a lot of pressure. 

Kahne is expected to have a big year and be a championship contender instantly.  He's shown a lot of talent early in his career—a lot of people in the racing world are expecting him to show it in 2012.

He's going to be under the microscope all season long.  Kahne will be compared to his teammates, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, and expected to match what they can do.  

Ask Dale Earnhardt Jr.  He's always compared to his champion teammates, especially with his 129-race losing streak. 

Fortunately for Kahne, he has no long losing steak coming into 2012, but he has to win.

Will Kasey Kahne have a great 2012 season?

Yes he will, but we have to define a great season for Kahne.

I believe he's going to win at least one race and make the Chase.  Those are the requirements for Kahne to call 2012 a success.

It is going to take Kahne and Francis time to adjust to their new team and grow their working relationships with their teammates.  

Kahne's car shares the same shop with Jeff Gordon, and that working relationship will be vital for both teams.

It is going to benefit Kahne greatly to have a veteran champion to guide him and go to for anything.  Kahne will not have to worry about being the lead driver for the first time in his career. He'll actually be able to work with teammates that have more experience and more success.

With that, expect Kasey Kahne to live up to the expectations and be in the Chase.