ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Kahne to drive Hendrick's No. 5 car in 2012--but what about 2011?

Kasey Kahne will drive the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 2012, replacing Mark Martin, who intends to retire from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driving after the 2011 season, team owner Rick Hendrick said Wednesday.

Kasey Kahne will drive the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 2012, replacing Mark Martin, who intends to retire from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driving after the 2011 season, team owner Rick Hendrick said Wednesday.

Kahne, 30, has signed a long-term deal with Hendrick Motorsports that starts with the 2011 season, leaving Hendrick with the obligation of finding a stop-gap ride for Kahne next year. Richard Petty Motorsports announced Tuesday that Kahne would not return to the No. 9 Ford in 2011.

The logical first choice would seem to be a temporary placement with Stewart-Haas Racing, a Hendrick customer. Owned by Tony Stewart and currently fielding cars for Stewart and Ryan Newman, Stewart-Haas receives engines, chassis and technical support from Hendrick Motorsports.

Hendrick, however, said Wednesday he has not finalized plans for Kahne for 2011. Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive for HMS, and NASCAR limits the number of cars an owner can field to four.

"It's kind of a unique animal, in that we know what we're going to do come '12, but we haven't locked in on what we're going to do in '11 yet, and there's just a ton of options," Hendrick said. "He has a contract (for 2011). It's my responsibility to get him in a position--of course, he'll have to agree to it--but it's a stop-gap to get us to '12. That's just the commitment we made to each other."

ADVERTISEMENT

Hendrick did acknowledge that "parking" Kahne at JR Motorsports, owned jointly by Hendrick, Earnhardt Jr., Kelley Earnhardt and Tony Eury Jr., is unlikely, given that JRM currently has no Cup program. JRM fields Nationwide Series entries for Jamie McMurray, Danica Patrick and Earnhardt Jr. in selected events.

"Junior's made it pretty clear that he wants to see that a Nationwide organization, and I think, with the commitments to Danica and what's going on there, that is totally Junior and Kelley's call, but he's been pretty vocal about wanting to make that a Nationwide operation," Hendrick said. "But that could change subject to Danica's decisions, and that decision is going to be made by Dale and Kelley."

Sponsorship remains a question mark. Kahne drives the Budweiser Ford for RPM, but Hendrick said he has not discussed Kahne's move to HMS with the beer company.

The role of crew chief also is an open question. Alan Gustafson fills that position for Martin, but Kahne is loyal to his current crew chief at RPM, Kenny Francis.

"My relationship with Kenny has been awesome," Kahne said. "I get to work with him every week. We have a great communication between ourselves and what the car's doing and what changes we need to make. I feel like we can win a lot of races this year, or some races this year, before the season's done. I look forward to working with Kenny the rest of this year, and hopefully we work together in the future. Personally, I don't know. That's one of the things that I'm not sure of yet."

Kahne, who has 11 Cup victories, said he talked to a number of teams about his future, including RPM, but opted for Hendrick as his next career move. Kahne's first full season of Cup racing was 2004 with Evernham Motorsports, which has evolved through a series of mergers and acquisitions into RPM.

"I felt like I've been there for six years," Kahne said. "It'll be seven at the end of this one, and I want to do something different."

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
What To Read Next