One thing that Kasey Kahne insisted is not bothering him is the recent hiring by Hendrick Motorsports of William Byron, the 18-year-old phenom who currently leads the Camping World Truck Series with five victories.
Byron is slated to run a full XFINITY Series schedule for HMS next season, with the tentative plan for Byron to be ready for a jump to Sprint Cup by 2018.
Many saw Byron’s hiring as a threat to Kahne, who won a total of five races his first three seasons after joining Hendrick in 2012 but has not won any in the last two. But Kahne said team owner Rick Hendrick called him ahead of time to inform him of the decision to hire Byron, and Kahne said he congratulated his boss for landing one of the top young talents in NASCAR.
"So I told Mr. H, ‘Good job. Way to go. He seems like a good kid to have.’ There had to be other people who wanted him as well," said Kahne, who added that he met Byron for the first time last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway and came away impressed.
Kahne was blunt when asked if he perceived Byron’s hiring as some kind of threat to his future employment at Hendrick.
"I didn’t really think about the rest," he said. "If I haven’t performed by 2018, I need to leave. It’s pretty simple. That has nothing to do with William Byron or anyone else.
"If I haven’t performed by then, it’s time to go do something different. That’s just the way racing and life is."