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2012 Ride: No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
2012 Primary Sponsor: Farmer’s Insurance (20 races) / Quaker State (4 races) / Hendrickcars.com (10 races) / Time Warner Cable (1 race) / Rockwell Tools (1 race)
2012 Owner: Rick Hendrick
2012 Crew Chief: Kenny Francis
Stats: 36 starts, 2 wins, 12 top 5s, 19 top 5s, 4th in points.
Best finish: 1st, twice (Charlotte and New Hampshire).
Average finish: 13.14.
2012 Team Ranking: 2nd of 4. After starting the year a step behind his three Hendrick teammates, Kahne bounced back and was only outdone by Jimmie Johnson in The Chase.
High Point: Charlotte in May. In Kahne’s 12th race with Hendrick Motorsports, he scored his first win with the team in one of the series’ biggest races, the Coca-Cola 600. The victory was important to Kahne, who wanted so badly to prove that he belonged with arguably the series’ top organization, especially after the way he started the season.
Low Point: Bristol in March. While running in the top 10, Kahne drove up the track into Regan Smith, triggering a multi-car wreck that included possible contenders Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and others. The wreck also meant that through four races, Kahne had literally crashed every car he had driven for Hendrick up to that point. He was caught up in messes in the Bud Shootout and Daytona 500, wrecked himself coming off Turn 4 at Phoenix, was a victim of a late-race incident at Las Vegas and caused the melee at Bristol. After four races, he sat in 32nd in the standings and decided to fire his own cousin Kole Kahne as spotter.
Summary: After announcing his plans to move to Hendrick Motorsports in 2010 — creating an awkward ending to 2010 and a stint with now-defunct Red Bull Racing in 2011 — Kahne finally moved to the No. 5 car to replace Mark Martin this season.
The young driver was clearly pressing at the start of the season, feeling the pressure to perform in his new ride, but once he settled in, he was one of the top drivers in the series.
The spring race at Texas was the first of eight consecutive top 10s for Kahne. That included his first win for Hendrick at Charlotte. Eight races later, Kahne was back in Victory Lane at a completely different layout in New Hampshire. He also collected 12 top 5 finishes. Kahne raced into the Chase, despite his rocky start to the season and was still in contention for the championship through Phoenix thanks to 5 top 5s in the 10 playoff races.
Off-Track News: Kahne underwent surgery for a torn meniscus eight days before the Bud Shootout after an MRI revealed swelling in his left knee. Kahne was asked about his knee later in the season and said it hadn’t been an issue. In July, he even competed in his first triathlon with fellow Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson.
2013 Outlook: There is no reason to think Kahne can’t compete for the championship after his strong performance in the 2012 Chase. The only thing that really separated Kahne from Johnson and Brad Keselowski was his inability to turn top 5 runs into wins at the end of the season.
2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: B+.
2012 Grade: A-.
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