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Hendrick ships Kahne to Toyota for 2011, in a surprise decision

  Kasey Kahne (L, here with veteran crew chief Kenny Francis, Sunday at Watkins Glen) in a Toyota for 2011? Kahne's driving Fords this year for George Gillett and Richard Petty; he drove Dodges for Ray Evernham; he just signed a contract to start driving for Chevrolet's Rick Hendrick in 2011....but Hendrick's current roster is full, so.....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   In a stunning move, Chevrolet's Rick Hendrick, one of the nation's biggest car dealers as well as one of the top GM car owners in NASCAR, has decided to put Kasey Kahne -- under a Hendrick driving contract for 2011 -- in one of Jay Frye's Red Bull sponsored Toyotas.
   The Tuesday morning announcement follows months of debate and questions about where Kahne might drive next year. He's currently running Fords for Richard Petty and George Gillett; but Hendrick confirmed in April that he had signed Kahne to drive for him in Chevrolets, eventually replacing Mark Martin in the no. 5 car for the 2012 Sprint Cup season.
   However NASCAR has a four-team limit for car owners. So Hendrick couldn't just put him in a fifth team Chevrolet, because he's already got Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his roster.
    Frye, who will talk further about the situation Tuesday, said "We were fortunate to have the opportunity to hire a very talented driver for the 2011 season and we took it. This all happened very quickly.
    "This is a unique situation that doesn't' happen every day.
    "Kasey is a perfect fit for our company, team and Red Bull."
     The 30-year-old Kahne has won 11 Cup races and he's been one of Ford's top drivers this season.
“  "This opportunity places me with an established, competitive team that has proven they can win races and make the chase," Kahne said.
    Kahne has tried to stay out of the great debate over the summer. "It feels good to be able to finally put this to rest and focus my energy on finishing the season strong."
   The shape of the Petty-Gillett team, currently a four-car operation, remains cloudy. Team manager Foster Gillett just announced a new contract for AJ Allmendinger to continue driving the No. 43 in 2011.
    The Red Bull team situation has been cloudy too, since lead driver Brian Vickers was sidelined with blood clots in May. He continue undergoing treatment, with plans to return to the tour in 2011. Teammate Scott Speed, on the other hand, has in his two years on the tour, been less than impressive, and it's unclear if he will return for next season.
   Hendrick himself issued a brief statement: "Kasey is going to a competitive organization that made the chase last season and has great leadership and resources.
   "Of everything we looked at, he and I agree it's the best opportunity for him to be successful in 2011, which was always our number-one priority."
   When the Kahne-to-Hendrick move was first announced in the spring, Hendrick said he had planned to make an early decision on where Kahne would run in 2011. "The process went on longer than any of us anticipated," Hendrick conceded.
   "But I'm glad that we took our time to make sure it was right.
   "And although I'm not looking forward to racing against him next year, I'm comfortable knowing this is the best situation for Kasey."

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Gee, I wonder who's paying

Gee, I wonder who's paying Kasey next year, Hendrick? Red Bull? or both?

actually i dont think money

actually i dont think money is a problem for either. but why in the world did chevrolet executives sign off on putting one of their new stars in a toyota? that's not usually the way those guys do business.

I'm glad Mark Martin held his

I'm glad Mark Martin held his ground. Let's hope Hendrick doesn't rearrange Mark's team again next season just to spite him. Hendrick broke up the 2nd place team in the standings from last year to only make Jr. slightly more competitive and still not get him in the Chase. Mark has to start over with new people again when he was darn close to winning the title last season. Thanks, Rick.

i agree that the alan

i agree that the alan gustafson-mark martin/lance mcgrew-dale jr. thing hasn't improved Jr. that much but it sure looks like a drag on Mark.
and i am starting to think that ray evernham's comments at the brickyard about mark stepping aside to make room for kasey were indeed some behind-the-scenes pressure. and why didn't chevrolet executives step up to the plate on this? why would they want one of their new stars in a toyota? that looks like pretty dumb marketing to me. nobody has james finch's phone number?

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