Kasey Kahne said Friday that he’d been thinking about stepping away from NASCAR for much of the 2018 season.
Kahne, 38, announced Thursday that this year would be his last as a full-time Cup Series driver. He’s currently 28th in the standings while in his first year for small team Leavine Family Racing.
“Truthfully, the last two years at Hendrick and then the year here at LFR just like as far as competition, I haven’t been as competitive as what I want to be,” Kahne said. “So, I would say over the last three, four months it’s started being on my mind, like man, do I need to find other things to do and think of other things to do. I just finally made that decision. But it’s definitely been there for a few months.”
Kahne drove for Hendrick Motorsports from 2012-2017. He won the 2017 Brickyard 400 but it wasn’t enough to keep his job with Hendrick. After two of his team’s sponsors had announced that they were leaving at the end of the season, Hendrick bought Kahne out of the final year of his contract and hired William Byron (at likely a much cheaper rate).
Kahne moved to the single-car team for the 2018 season and has struggled even more than he did with Hendrick, likely because of the downgrade in equipment. Former Hendrick employee Travis Mack came with Kahne to LFR to be his crew chief and didn’t even make it through the first half of the season before he was fired.
The crew chief change hasn’t helped the team’s results. Kahne was 28th in the standings after Mack’s last race (at Michigan in June).
Kahne said Friday that he would have gotten paid by Hendrick if he made his retirement official after the 2017 season and not 2018. But he said he wanted to try something different this season, even if the results have been far from where he and the team expected them to be.
“At the end of last year, it was actually kind of mid-August when we first started talking and it was going to be fresh, new, something different,” Kahne said. “It was exciting to me so I wanted to give it one more shot with a different group and a different company and I did that. We have had some success this year, we have also had races where we all wanted them to be better and then we have had some races that weren’t good at all. But the successful days make me happy on Monday and excited to come back for that next race. But I just kind of ran out of that anymore, like I am just happy to finish these final 12 [races] the best that we can and enjoy it with the guys and try to get some good results and then do something a little different after that.”
Kahne’s retirement means eight of the 12 drivers who made the 2009 Chase won’t be in the Cup Series when 2019 begins. The only four expected drivers remaining when the Daytona 500 begins are Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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