RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Friday was a big day for Kasey Kahne.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver had the pleasure of kicking his weekend off with the announcement of an extension to his No. 5 Chevrolet's primary sponsor in Farmers Insurance that runs through 2017 and shortly after topped opening Sprint Cup Series practice at Michigan International Speedway, pacing the field with a best speed of 203.332 mph.
However, Friday was also the first time he faced questions about his run-in with Kyle Busch last Sunday at Pocono Raceway since his harsh comments about the Joe Gibbs Racing driver after being evaluated and released from the infield care center.
As a quick refresher, the two were racing hard and Busch tried to close in ahead of the No. 5, thinking Kahne would lift. Kahne, knowing he had the faster car because he had just passed the No. 18, did not, and the two cars collided and Kahne ended up in the wall, finishing 42nd.
No stranger to incidents with the No. 18 Toyota of Busch -- the pair seemed to have a strong magnetic pull toward each other in 2013, when they wrecked each other several times -- Kahne on Sunday said, "That's just Kyle being Kyle ? he races however he races."
Five days later, his stance hasn't changed.
"He sent me an email, then a text to ask if I got it. I told him I did, and that is how it went," said Kahne, 21st in points. "I talked through every situation and scenario last year with him when we had them, and to this day, I've still raced him the exact same way. For him to do that, I knew it was coming as soon as he floored it in the corner. I was like 'He can't. He can't. He's going to run me right in the wall.' I think he was having a bad day, and just loses it. But as far as us talking, we haven't. He did write me an email, but I don't really care anymore. I don't care to talk to him or anything."
Even if Kahne was open to reconciling his relationship with Busch -- keep in mind they placed a friendly public Super Bowl bet just a handful of months ago -- he's got a lot more important affairs to deal with, such as getting into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
A multiple race-winner the past two seasons, Kahne has yet to even get a whiff of Victory Lane champagne in 2014, leading laps in just four out of 14 races with a best finish of third at Kansas. Given his early success this weekend and his past history at Michigan (win in 2006; wrecked after cutting a tire while leading this race last year), the two-mile facility could offer the 34-year-old his best shot to win so far this season.
"Really, where we are at right now, as a team, we need to show up each weekend, and put full weekends together; from myself to Kenny (Francis, crew chief) to everybody on our team," Kahne said. "We all have talked about this all weekend, and all week long leading into this race. We just need to step up, and if we do that, I feel like 'yes, there is going to be pressure, we want to be in the Chase.' But we have fast enough cars. We have all the equipment; everything there to do it. We just need to put those weekends together. Put ourselves in position, and there is still plenty of time to win races."
There have been a lot of factors leading to Kahne's down season, but bad luck seems to be the one that continues to rear its ugly head. It started in the season-opening Daytona 500 when the No. 5 hit a patch of grass while headed to pit road, spinning out and going from sixth to 40th in the process. It's been a trend, seeing Kahne finish laps down in two of the four races that he has led. Even when he is getting out front, circumstances keep him from staying there.
With his sponsorship locked down for 2015 -- his contract was set to expire at the end of 2014 -- he's got one less thing on his mind to worry about. Maybe it'll be just the push it takes to get this struggling team going.
"It feels good when you know you have sponsorship. They are such a big part of what makes us able to race each weekend and put everything into it that Hendrick Motorsports does. I'm glad about Farmers Insurance. We have Great Clips there as well. I'm excited about it; I think there will be some good things there. ? I'm looking forward to winning also, and getting them in Victory Lane more than we have at this point."
Kahne's sponsors aren't the only ones that want to see him in Victory Lane, either. His Hendrick contract is set to run dry at the end of next year as well, and contract negotiations have yet to begin. The driver has no plans to leave, but Kahne is keen enough to understand that with the gravity of an organization such as HMS, results talk.
"I like being at HMS. It is just an unbelievable place. Getting to work with the three teammates that I get to work with each week is better than anything I've ever done in racing as far as guys I've been able to work with. I am getting information there from three of the best in racing. I've enjoyed every bit of it. Mr. Hendrick is always trying to help me as a driver; as a person and he gives us every opportunity. So, I want to be there a long time. We still have a year-and-a-half before my deal's up. So I think performance, and sponsors that want to be part of them, and just getting our team back where it needs to be. We've struggled some this year for really no reason. We can't have that. If we can get rid of some of those struggles, I would hope that I would be at Hendrick Motorsports for a long time."
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Hendrick Motorsports