Kahne team has work cut out for it

April, 17, 2010

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Kasey Kahne is saying all the right things. He wants to finish this season on a high note.

Kahne is an honorable guy. I'm sure he means it. Kahne will do everything in his power to get the No. 9 Ford in the Chase and leave Richard Petty Motorsports with good feelings all around before leaving for greener pastures at Hendrick Motorsports.

Finishing well is the plan, but historically speaking, lame-duck teams rarely do well. It's just human nature. For the crew and everyone working on the car, it's hard to have the same zeal for your job when you're unsure if you'll have a job soon.

Jeff Burton was honest enough to say that lame-duck situations are difficult to overcome.

"They've got to be looking at their other options and they've got to be looking at other opportunities,'' Burton said Friday. "And Kasey's got to be paying attention to not only what he's doing now, but what he's going to be doing in the future.

"I just think as hard as you try and as hard as you say you're going to be as good, it's difficult because it's a distraction."

It's a little like a husband and wife agreeing to an amicable split, but deciding to live in the same house until the divorce is final.

If any team can stay focused on the moment, Burton believes Kahne's team is the one.

"I think Kasey's in a little different situation," Burton said. "The group that's with Kasey has been with him for a long time. I think that they respect Kasey and they understand the situation Kasey is in.

"With [crew chief] Kenny Francis being there, I think they have a good rapport with each other and the team has a good rapport with the both of them. I think that's going to help. I just don't view that group as being bitter or upset about it. I may be wrong about that, but I believe it."

So Burton thinks the team has a chance to post some strong performances the rest of this season, but it's never easy when a group is breaking up.

"Kasey is going to continue to work hard," Burton said. "His car owner's going to continue to work hard, but you also have to be looking at the future."

Kahne went to dinner with his Richard Petty Motorsports team in Texas to tell them he will do everything he can to make the rest of this year productive.

"I want us to enjoy ourselves and win races," Kahne said. "And I still feel like we have a shot at the Chase."

Kahne ranks 26th in the Cup standings with two top-10s in the first seven races. But he made the Chase last year and finished 10th in the playoff.

"I've had six and a half years with those guys and we've had a great run," he said. "I have a lot of friends there and a lot of people that I really enjoy working with. Until this year, I'd never looked at another shop. I'd never been inside another building. But sometimes you just need some change and you need something different."

Something different starts next year. For now, he hopes to end this year with something good for the No. 9 team.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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