Kenny Francis named vehicle technical director while Keith Rodden returns to No. 5 team.
Hendrick Motorsports made it official on Wednesday.
As Motorsport.com first reported, Kenny Francis has been named technical director at HMS. His former team engineer on the No. 5 Chevy, Keith Rodden, returns to Hendrick after a one-year stint as crew chief with Jamie McMurray to oversee Kasey Kahne’s 2015 effort.
Hendrick Motorsports said in a release that the move was to prepare for next season and the “revised rules that affect race car development and on-track testing”.
With the new rules for next year, it’s more important than ever to have a strong vehicle development program.
“This is a great opportunity for both guys, and it will strengthen our overall organization,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports in a release. “With the new rules for next year, it’s more important than ever to have a strong vehicle development program. Unifying those efforts for the first time under Kenny’s guidance will be critical to our success. It plays to his experience as a leader, innovative engineer and race-winning crew chief. He’s just tailor-made for it.
“Keith is one of the most talented young crew chiefs in the garage. He already knows our culture and works extremely well with our people. The relationships and familiarity he has with Kenny, Kasey and the No. 5 team will make it easy to hit the ground running. We talk a lot about ‘fit factor,’ and this definitely falls into that category. He’s the right fit."
The big picture
Francis will report to HMS general manager Doug Duchardt. His duties will include car design and development. The 44-year-old Jacksonville, Fla.-native, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida, will oversee chassis, body, R&D, on-track testing, vehicle engineering and simulation programs and work closely with HMS’ crew chiefs.
“When it was clear there was a need for this role, I was very intrigued and felt it would be a great challenge,” Francis said. “It encompasses areas I’m passionate about, and I know we can make a difference for our teams, especially with the new rules for next year. There are a lot of reasons why it feels right at this point in my career, and I’m looking forward to contributing in a new way.”
After eight seasons as Kahne’s team engineer, Rodden, 33, returns to Hendrick Motorsports as crew chief for the No. 5 team. Rodden, who graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, entered NASCAR in 2003 with Andy Petree Racing then joined Evernham Motorsports the following year and partnered with Francis and Kahne on their Cup effort in 2006.
“Opportunities like this don’t come around often,” said Rodden. “The people at Hendrick Motorsports are like my family, especially in the 5/24 shop. I expect we’ll have great chemistry right off the bat, which should make for a smooth transition.
"I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running with the No. 5 team and everyone who supports us. There’s no better resource than Kenny, so I hope he’s ready for some late-night phone calls.”
Compared to his Hendrick teammates, Kahne struggled this season. Although he qualified for the Chase with his victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy finished 15th in the final Sprint Cup point standings – his worst effort since moving to HMS in 2012.
Kahne, 34, posted just three top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish 17.6.