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Francis To Join Kahne At Hendrick Motorsports In 2012

[1]Crew chief Kenny Francis will join Kasey Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports next season, the team announced. Francis, who has served as Kahne’s crew chief since 2005, followed Kahne from Richard Petty Motorsports to Red Bull Racing. The two have 10 victories together, 13 poles, 34 top 5s, and 71 top 10s.

Team owner Rick Hendrick said:

Our people have a lot of respect for Kenny and what he’s accomplished. We know the chemistry is already there with Kasey, and there’s no doubt Kenny will communicate very well with our folks. He’s a character guy who brings an awful lot to the table as a crew chief. When we look at “fit factor,” it’s a great situation.

Francis added:

Joining Hendrick Motorsports and continuing to work with Kasey next year is an opportunity I’m excited about. He’s a championship-caliber driver and good friend, and I’m looking forward to building on our relationship. Mr. Hendrick has built an impressive team and culture, and it’s going to be fun to be a part of that when the time comes. I’m very optimistic about the rest of this season and focused on getting to Victory Lane with the No. 4 team. I want to thank Jay Frye and everyone with the organization for the chance to be part of such a great group of people. We still have goals to achieve there, and those are foremost on my mind right now.

In April of 2010, Kahne signed a multi-year deal with HMS [2] to drive the No. 5 Sprint Cup Chevy. At the time, Mark Martin was slated to drive the car in 2011. With the NASCAR-mandated maximum of four drivers under contract, Kahne was left to sign with a team for one year.

After much speculation that Martin would leave the team and sign with Red Bull Racing [3], Kahne ended up going to RBR [4].

A couple of months later, it was reported that Francis would move to RBR with Kahne [5]. At that time, I speculated that Francis would move to HMS with Kahne [6] for 2012, which would result in Alan Gustafson ending up as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr in 2012.

With last off-season’s reshuffling of crew chiefs [7] at HMS, I don’t think that Gustafson or Steve Letarte will switch teams.

Lance McGrew, current crew chief of the team that Francis will take over when Kahne joins HMS, will return to HMS’s research and development department, including working on special projects and working with the development of the 2013 Sprint Cup car.