Kenny Francis will be crew chief

Updated: July 27, 2011, 4:56 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kasey Kahne will take his longtime crew chief with him to Hendrick Motorsports next season.

Team owner Rick Hendrick announced Wednesday that Kenny Francis will crew chief the No. 5 Chevrolet that Kahne is slated to drive starting with the 2012 season. Kahne and Francis have been together since the final race of 2005.

"Our people have a lot of respect for Kenny and what he's accomplished," Hendrick said. "We know the chemistry is already there with Kasey, and there's no doubt Kenny will communicate very well with our folks. He's a character guy who brings an awful lot to the table as a crew chief.

"When we look at 'fit factor,' it's a great situation," he said.

Francis will replace Lance McGrew, who will move into a research and development role with Hendrick. He'll also be involved in special projects, which will include the development of the Chevrolet that will be used in the Sprint Cup Series beginning with the 2013 season.

"Before the season started, I told Mr. Hendrick I was open to any role he wanted me to play moving forward," McGrew said. "My goal has always been to contribute to the long-term success of this company however I can, period."

McGrew has been with Hendrick since 2000 and is currently crew chief for Mark Martin.

Kahne said early last season he had signed with HMS to replace Martin in 2012. Although Francis was not legally tied to him, the two are so closely associated it's been assumed Francis would go wherever Kahne went.

That's how it played out this season, when Kahne signed a one-year deal with Red Bull Racing while he waited for the No. 5 to open. Francis signed his own contract with Red Bull.

Francis, who holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Florida, had led Kahne to 10 victories and 71 top 10 finishes.

"Joining Hendrick Motorsports and continuing to work with Kasey next year is an opportunity I'm excited about," Francis said. "He's a championship-caliber driver and good friend, and I'm looking forward to building on our relationship.

"Mr. Hendrick has built an impressive team and culture, and it's going to be fun to be a part of that when the time comes," he said.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press