Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis
Kahne moved to the Sprint Cup level to join the still-new Evernham Motorsports No. 9 Dodge team at the end of the 2003, leaving Ford and full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series competition. Sports mogul George Gillett became part owner of the team in 2007 and the organization was renamed Gillett-Evernham Motorsports.
A couple of years later, Gillett-Evernham Motorsports merged with the former Petty Enterprises team to become Richard Petty Motorsports. While Kahne was with RPM, he endured another merger with the former Yates Racing team, a manufacturer switch to Ford and another shift in team ownership.
Kahne left the instability of the No. 9 team behind during the 2010 race season and picked up a temporary ride behind the wheel of the No. 83 Toyota of Red Bull Racing, knowing ahead of time that he’d be heading to Hendrick Motorsports to replace Mark Martin in the No. 5 Chevrolet at the beginning of 2012.
Kahne was paired up with Francis while both were with the original Evernham Motorsports organization, and they haven’t looked back. Wherever Kahne has gone in the time since, Francis has followed, and it’s been a productive relationship, to say the least.
“He’s a championship-caliber driver and good friend, and I’m looking forward to building on our relationship,” Francis said upon the announcing of his hiring at Hendrick Motorsports.
Kahne has a total of 14 wins at the Sprint Cup level since joining the circuit full-time in 2004. All but one of those came with Francis as his crew chief, including a series-leading six wins in 2006, their first year together.
Kahne and Frances have insisted over the years and throughout their many tides of change that they haven’t demanded to stay together. Kahne did tell SBNation that he suggested the pairing to car owner Rick Hendrick, but ultimately, it was Hendrick’s decision.
Apparently, it’s a match that no car owner dares pull apart.
"When we look at 'fit factor,' it's a great situation," their current boss, Rick Hendrick, told the Associated Press.
That fit factor got off to a rough start in 2012, but the Kahne-Francis partnership has gotten back on course and seems to have hit its stride midway through 2012. Heading into the July 29 Brickyard 400, Kahne sits 12th in points with two trips to victory lane, making him the Chase for the Sprint Cup wild card leader.
“I feel good about where we’re at now,” Kahne said. “We just have to stay consistent, stay after it, keep putting ourself in position, hopefully win a couple more races.”
Sometimes after several years, driver-crew chief relationships seem to go stale. In the case of Kahne and Frances, the relationship looks to be as fresh as ever.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR