By admin | April 13, 2010
By Richard Allen
The news has been broken by multiple sources that driver Kasey Kahne will leave Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of the 2010 season. He is slated to join Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 after Mark Martin’s contract as the driver of car #5 expires.
With Kahne’s contract at RPM expiring at the end of this season, the question is where will he drive in 2011?
Here is a thought. Might he become the first Sprint Cup driver for JR Motorsports?
There are three pieces to the puzzle that make this at least a possibility. First, HMS and JR Motorsports are already closely aligned. Second, the JR Motorsports shop is easily capable of housing a Sprint Cup team. And perhaps most intriguing of all, such a deal would allow Kahne’s sponsor, Budweiser, to realign itself with JR Motorsports’s owner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Budweiser had been a long time sponsor of Earnhardt’s when he drove the #8 car for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. When Junior left that team for HMS, he and Bud were forced to split as Mountain Dew and Amp Energy Drink were brought on to back his new ride.
Budweiser found Kahne to carry their banner in 2008. No doubt, the massive brewery would prefer not to have to begin a new relationship with another driver, so keeping Kahne in the fold would seem to make sense. And, they would no doubt relish the opportunity to rejoin the sport’s most popular driver, even in the role as a pseudo team owner.
Granted, there seemed to be some issue that kept Bud out of HMS in 2008, but these are new and different times. And, technically at least, they would not be sponsoring a Hendrick car in such a deal.
In the past, Earnhardt has denied rumors that his team would field Sprint Cup cars. However, that was in the past. Perhaps, now would be the time for such a thing to occur. And more, a team could then be in place for Danica Patrick or some other driver to assume in 2012.
Much speculation already has Kahne driving for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2011 as he waits out Martin’s farewell. But, a union between Kahne and Junior does not seem so outlandish, especially when the Budweiser/Junior angle is considered.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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