To say that 2010 was a rough year for Kasey Kahne would be putting it lightly.
Others might use the terms “unmitigated disaster” or “unconventional.” Any way you want to put it, Kahne wants to forget that 2010 ever happened.
Despite the hot start Kahne got off to at Daytona, winning his Gatorade Duel to start fourth in the Daytona 500, his success waned throughout the year in the Budweiser Ford.
He didn’t see his first top-10 finish until the third race of the season, his first top-five until the fourth race of the season and did not find Victory Lane at all in 2010.
Despite winning four poles, the highest he finished was second, which he did twice.
Kahne found far more success, if you can call it that, in stirring up the media storm in 2010. Halfway through the season, it was announced that Kahne would be joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2010, the heir apparent to the famous No. 5 car.
Then the search began for a place for Kahne to race in 2011, which took months. Eventually, Rick Hendrick struck a deal with Red Bull Racing to have Kahne drive for Red Bull while waiting for 2012.
With five races to go, Kahne got an early jump on his Red Bull stint after being released from his contract by Richard Petty Motorsports, leaving the only team he had been a part of in his NASCAR career.
Looking ahead to 2011, Kahne finds himself in a position that he should at least be somewhat familiar with: A lame-duck driver on a team. With Brian Vickers coming back from his health issues of last season, Kahne essentially takes over what was Scott Speed’s ride, with a Vickers’ old paint scheme and a new number: Four.
Not only is Kahne waiting in the wings for the chance to drive the No. 5 car, he is also waiting to be reunited with the crew chief he had quite a bit of success with in Kenny Francis. Francis will join Kahne at Hendrick in 2012, but for this year, Kahne will be working with Jimmy Elledge.
This relationship potentially could put results up on the board for Kahne, as he showed in the last race of the year, posting a pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway and a finish of sixth.
As far as a prediction for 2011, look for Kahne to be strong at the tracks that he has a good history at, tracks such as Michigan, Charlotte and Pocono.
Driving with a different manufacturer for a third year in a row could possibly prove challenging for Kahne, but he might as well get used to it, as he’ll trade in the Toyota logo for the Chevy bow-tie next season anyway.
Kahne might win one or two races this year, but even that might be a stretch. He certainly won’t be repeating his six-win season of 2006 in 2011. The Chase is probably a bit of a stretch as well for the driver of the No. 4 car, but I think a top-15 in points wouldn’t be out of the question.
However, he has everything to prove to Hendrick, Petty and the entire NASCAR world that he has what it takes to drive under the Hendrick banner.
With everything to prove going into 2012, look for the 2011 season to be a statement year for Kahne.