Red Bull Racing Team - Kenny Francis
About Kenny Francis
Many college kids spend Friday nights partying and Saturday mornings sleeping in. And then do it all over again. That wasn’t the case for one student at the University of Florida.
Kenny Francis had been highly successful racing go-karts since age 8, dominating the local ranks around his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. — even winning a state championship — before moving on to regional and national circuits. But in college, while studying for a degree in mechanical engineering in the late 1980s, Francis began competing in late model stock cars at the local level.
Keep in mind, this a college kid trying to balance school, racing and a part-time job at a local power company. At the time Francis wanted it bad enough he found himself traveling to far away tracks in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and South Boston, Va., but despite wins and poles the grind eventually got to him.
In 1996, Francis climbed out of the car and moved under the hood to work with a local team that competed in NASCAR’s Busch Series. It was here, as a crew member learning everything from fabrication to setup, that Francis began shaping his professional career.
Sipping from the Cup
Like so many trying to break into the NASCAR industry, Francis moved to North Carolina in 1998. His first gig came with Butch Mock Motorsports and driver Rick Mast. Then came an offer from Robert Yates Racing to work with driver Dale Jarrett for the 1999 season.
It was a dream job for any young crewman. Francis gained valuable insight and experience as the team rode with Jarrett to four victories, 24 top fives and the 1999 Cup championship. Francis remained at Yates through the 2000 season until he was offered the unique opportunity to work with champion crew chief-turned-car owner Ray Evernham.
Evernham was building his own race team as Dodge re-entered the sport in 2001 and needed a team engineer on Evernham Motorsports’ No. 9 driven by Bill Elliott. Evernham soon noticed that Francis was the total package in the shop and at the track and promoted him to crew chief/team director of Jeremy Mayfield’s No. 19 for the 2002 season. By 2004, Francis had built the team into a championship contender — evidenced by Mayfield winning and racing his way into the inaugural Chase at Richmond. Francis and Co. followed up with another victory and Chase appearance in 2005.
Kenny and Kasey
Entering 2006, Evernham shuffled personnel within the organization and elected to put Francis with third-year driver Kasey Kahne and the No. 9 team. The pair parlayed their new union into instant success — they opened with back-to-back fourth-place finishes at California and Las Vegas before winning their first Cup race together at Atlanta on March 19, 2006.
It ended up being a career-best season for driver and team director. With Francis on the pit box and Kahne in the car, they combined for a series-high six victories and earned a berth in the Chase. Kahne finished eighth in the final points standings to go along with 12 top fives, 19 top 10s, six poles and 744 laps led.
Francis and Kahne couldn’t recapture the magic and went winless in 2007 as business mogul George Gillett became majority owner of the team and Evernham’s role was reduced. They rebounded with two victories in 2008 that included a sweep of the May events at Charlotte. Under the new Richard Petty Motorsports banner in 2009, Francis and Kahne had their most successful season since 2006. Two wins, seven top fives and the most lead-lap finishes (27) of Kahne’s career vaulted them into the Chase for the second time, finishing 10th overall.
After a tumultuous 2010 season for Richard Petty Motorsports, Kahne got a head start on 2011 by driving the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota for the final five races. Francis rode out the remainder of the season at RPM, but soon followed Kahne to Red Bull Racing Team.
As one of the longest standing driver-crew chief tandems in the Sprint Cup garage, Francis and Kahne are in their sixth season together in 2011. The two have combined for 10 wins, 30 top fives and 12 poles. They also own non-points victories in the 2008 All-Star event and 2010 Duels at Daytona.
Crew Chief, No. 4
- Jacksonville, Fla.
- Mooresville, N.C.
- Crew chief, Red Bull Racing Team (2011); crew chief and team director, Richard Petty Motorsports, Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Evernham Motorsports (2002-10); engineer, Evernham Motorsports (2001); crewman, Robert Yates Racing (1999-2000); crewman, Butch Mock Motorsports (1998); crewman, NASCAR Busch Series (1996-98); former late model stock car and go-kart driver.