Kasey Kahne signs for NASCAR Cup minnows Leavine Family Racing

Kasey Kahne will remain in the NASCAR Cup Series for 2018 after securing a drive for minnows Leavine Family Racing

Kasey Kahne signs for NASCAR Cup minnows Leavine Family Racing

The 18-time race winner had hoped his victory at Indianapolis in July would secure his future with Hendrick Motorsports, but the team opted to release him from his contract a year early.

Kahne had been keen to remain in NASCAR, having toured Richard Childress Racing's workshop and he had held talks with Leavine earlier this year.

He was also considering making a bid to compete at IndyCar's Indianapolis 500.

But Kahne has now signed for Leavine and the team admitted it was looking to replace regular driver Michael McDowell with one of NASCAR's out of contract veterans, failing in a bid to sign 2004 champion Kurt Busch.

Kahne will replace McDowell in the team's one-car setup in 2018.

"I want to thank Leavine Family Racing for this opportunity and will work as hard as possible to help them continue improving," he said.

"I am ready for this challenge and look forward to making a fresh start.

"Bob and everyone at Leavine Family Racing put a lot into their programme and I'm excited to become a part of it."

Team owner Bob Leavine said the signing of Kahne gives the team the platform to improve, having taken its best Cup finish in 2017 with fourth at Daytona in July.

"We look at this as an opportunity to go to the next level," said Leavine.

"This deals partially with performance because obviously, Kasey is a playoff-calibre driver.

"He has a wealth of information being with a larger organization like Hendrick Motorsports, and we think that will help us.

Leavine added the decision to replace McDowell was to aid its hopes of a playoff place next season.

"Overall, we think Kasey is a good fit and felt we needed a change," he said.

"There is absolutely nothing that Michael did [wrong], it was just a matter of us having to make some changes to help us move up the ladder and be a factor in the playoffs.

"I know Kasey will bring things that will help us, and I believe our environment will be conducive to his confidence level, which will, in turn, raise our confidence level.

"It just seemed like the right time and the right fit for our team."

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