Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Hendrick confirms five-year deal with Kahne, but insists 2011 is still up in the air

 Kasey Kahne: Rick Hendrick this is too good a deal to pass up. But what have they got planned for 2011? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


  By Mike Mulhern

  The timing, for all three sides, may be awkward, but team owner Rick Hendrick confirmed Wednesday that Kasey Kahne has signed a five-year contract with him to drive the Sprint Cup tour in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
  That is a bit awkward for Hendrick, who says he doesn't yet have a spot for Kahne for 2011.
  That is also a bit awkward for the George Gillett-Richard Petty team that Kahne is currently driving for, which now needs to find a new driver for the suddenly lame-duck Kahne.
   That is a bit awkward for Kahne, since the 36-race season is only seven races old and Kahne will have to drive for his current Ford team through November.
   And that is a bit awkward for Anheuser-Busch, Kahne's current sponsor. Hendrick, when he signed Dale Earnhardt Jr. three years ago, probably could have kept Earnhardt aligned with Budweiser but decided instead to change Earnhardt's colors from Bud red to Amp (Coke) green.
   It appears that there are at least three major NASCAR sponsorship up in the air for 2011: Budweiser, UPS, and Shell.
   And it is at the moment unclear if GoDaddy.com, the current sponsor for Martin and Hendrick on the Cup tour will be adding a 2012 contract extension.
   In 2012 Hendrick says Kahne is designated to fill the seat currently held by Mark Martin through the end of the 2011 season.
   Martin, 51, came close to winning the 2009 NASCAR championship. Hendrick said he was committed to Martin running for him in 2011, ruling out that ride as an option for Kahne. In fact Hendrick has Martin and crew chief Alan Gustafson working this season very closely with teammate Earnhardt to make that so far lackluster operation more successful.
   However some in the NASCAR garage can lay out an argument for Martin voluntarily moving to the Stewart or Finch teams in 2011, in order to open up that ride for Kahne.
   NASCAR'S current rules limit team owners to just four teams. Under NASCAR's old rules, Hendrick could simply have expand to a five-car operation.
   Kahne said the move to the Hendrick camp "makes a lot of sense," even if 2011 is still up in the air.
   Logically, considering Hendrick's considerable engineering and technical support for the Tony Stewart-Ryan Newman-Gene Haas operation, that would be a possibility. So could the James Finch 'satellite' operation; Brad Keselowski won for the Finch-Hendrick engineering team at Talladega a year ago.
   There are also possibilities within the Earnhardt-Hendrick-owned JR Motorsports, though Hendrick seemed to rule that out.
   Hendrick says he wants to lock up a ride for Kahne by early July.
   Sponsorship? It's rather vague.
   Kahne has made several complaints about his current team lately, referring to the issue of 'who's in charge' as somewhat confusing. And Gillett's wide-ranging sports empire has been in something of financial disarray lately. The news, which just broke in the last few days, that the bank holding a Gillett loan of some $90 million, with the stock car team as collateral, was apparently getting upset with parts of that situation, might have been one of the final straws for Kahne.
   What Gillett might now do to fill the Kahne ride is unclear.
   The loss of Kahne is a blow to Ford too, and a plus for Chevrolet.
   Hendrick said when Kahne put himself on the market, getting him was a no-brainer: "In Kasey we saw an opportunity to cement a big piece of our future.
    "He possesses incredible talent and a tremendous dedication to his craft, and we know he'll be a great fit within our company."
    Kahne's personality – low-keyed and non-controversial – fits right in with the Hendrick model. Hendrick dropped Kyle Busch, because of his flamboyant attitude, despite Busch's talents. Hendrick also passed on keeping Brad Keselowski in his camp, in part for the same reason.
   "Kasey has earned the respect of his future teammates by the way he's handled himself on and off the racetrack," Hendrick said.
    "To have someone of his caliber join our team is an unbelievable opportunity for us."
    Hendrick called Kahne "too good an opportunity to pass up. I wanted this deal so bad...."
    Kahne, who first hit the tour in 2004 and has 11 tour wins over that span, has been considered an under-achiever, though much of that was blamed on equipment.
    Kahne himself said he liked the "comfort level" his new team offered, "and the culture of the organization.
   "It's the right fit on every level."
   Kahne concedes such an early decision and announcement would make some things awkward: "I knew having some unanswered questions would be part of the scenario at this stage."
   Hendrick himself conceded now there is a "burden on my shoulders" not only to find a ride for Kahne next season but to help Kahne become more successful.
   "We're going to figure out 2011," Hendrick said. "No decision has been made yet."


   [Note: You can use Twitter as an easy headline service for mikemulhern.net stories, with our instant Tweets to your mobile as soon as our newest NASCAR story is filed. And mikemulhern.net is mobile-friendly for viewing. You can also use the orange RSS feed button as a quickie headline service on your laptop or home computer for mikemulhern.net stories, by creating a Live Bookmark RSS feed on your web browser's toolbar. Or you can create a Google Alert for mikemulhernnet.]



Would be neat to see Bill

Would be neat to see Bill Elliott in the #9 Ford again. With Coors on the hood too. Prehaps Chase Elliott or Matt Martin one day.

Stating the obvious, 2011 is

Stating the obvious, 2011 is an interesting situation. It makes almost no sense for SHR to take on Kahne for a year before his move to Hendrick. That would close the deal on any possibility of Harvick moving to SHR, unless SHR went to a temporary 4 car team--which I don't see hapening. Would Martin make the move to SHR or James Finch? I wouldn't, he and Gustafson are a good team, why bother shifting over for a year? And what of the sponsorship? Where would they go? And would they follow Kahne and move with him as he transitions?

And let's not even get into the Danica to Cup ramifications of all of this.

Here's how I see it: Kahne either goes to Finch for a year (with some serious money thrown his way along with even more "tech" assistance) or Martin has a sudden change of heart and "retires" at the end of the season (you can call it being forced out if you want) and Kahne goes straight to the 5 ride in 2011. I don't see a temp ride for Kahne at SHR, they're not ready to expand (crew chiefs, sponsorships, etc) yet, unless it's for a long term deal with a driver--which would eliminate Kahne and/or Harvick in that scenario.

My bet is that Kahne ends up in the 5 ride after all in 2011.

That's how I see it anyway.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com