Life was good when he drove for Ray Evernham, especially his six-win 2006 season. But Evernham eventually sold his majority ownership in the team, and the wheels slowly began to fall off from there. Gillett Evernham Motorsports became Richard Petty Motorsports, and although Kahne won two races in 2009 and 2010, he wanted out. So he said he'd join Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 when a seat opened, then looked for a temporary home for 2011.
He chose Red Bull Racing for his layover and actually joined the team early after getting out of his RPM car at Charlotte and refusing to drive for the team for the final five races of the season. In the time between his six-win 2006 season and when he arrived at Hendrick, Kahne won only five races, didn't contend for a championship, and dealt with more drama then he wanted.
At Hendrick, it's stress-free.
"You can go through any of the shops, any area, and guys are pretty happy," Kahne said. "That's not really normal. A lot of times guys are mad, or angry because drivers crashed too many cars. At Hendrick, the atmosphere and the people, it's a lot happier, and I think that starts at the top with Mr. H. He gives us all that happy feeling from the way he runs things and the way he treats everyone."
And Kahne has Francis, who weathered so many of the storms with him during the ownership changes and the on-track struggles. They had plenty of heart-to-hearts along the way, with each wondering if maybe they should split, but they've stuck together, and Kahne believes it's a key reason for his success.
"I feel like you can be very good with other guys. I could be very good with another crew chief, and Kenny could do awesome with another driver," Kahne said. "But I think the connection and the things Kenny and I went through to get where we are now — I don't think I'd feel near as at ease or as happy if I didn't have him to talk to or work with each week. I just see him, it makes you feel good to know what you've got."