By admin | January 12, 2011
By Richard Allen
On the surface, the Kasey Kahne to Team Red Bull deal looks to be one of the oddest pairings in recent memory. However, despite the strange way in which these two entities came together, the end result could prove to be a positive for both sides.
Early in the 2010 season it was announced that Kahne had signed to join with powerful Hendrick Motorsports. The trouble was that NASCAR limits each organization to a maximum of four Sprint Cup teams and HMS already had four drivers and teams set for the 2011 season.
Initially, Rick Hendrick had said he would find a Chevrolet ride for Kahne to fill the void created by the contractual situation of the early signing. In the end, however, no Chevy deal could be worked out so Kahne found himself leaving his former ride at Richard Petty Motorsports to pilot Toyotas for Team Red Bull. He will move to the No. 5 car after his one year stint at TRB is concluded.
Agreeing to take on a driver in a one year time filling deal would seem on the surface to be counterproductive for Red Bull. However, a closer look shows that much good could come from this for the team.
Last year was a difficult struggle for TRB to say the least. Only eleven races into the season the team’s top driver, Brian Vickers, was diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder that sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign. From that point the No. 83 car was wheeled by five other drivers, including Kahne at the end of the season. The car only found its way into the top-10 at the finish five times and three of those were recorded by Vickers before his illness.
The team’s second car, driven by Scott Speed, fared no better. Speed ran all 36 races but managed only two top-10s. That driver was released at the end of 2010.
In 2011, Kahne will drive a TRB car sporting the number 4, but it will be the car driven by Speed last year. Along with him, Kahne will bring his longtime crew chief, Kenny Francis.
Even if only for one year, the addition of a top flight driver and crew chief will almost certainly improve the lot of the Red Bull operation. This pairing has shown they can be a competitive force in NASCAR.
Combined with the return of Vickers to the No. 83 seat, Red Bull will have two quality drivers who can relay information to one another that should serve to improve the performance of each.
Red Bull should benefit from Kahne’s time there even after he has gone. If indeed they are able to put he and Vickers in contention in 2011, they should be able to lure some other quality driver in to replace him in 2012 and beyond.
From Kahne’s point of view, he will no doubt benefit by getting away from what almost turned into a disaster at RPM last year. That team will be in the midst of re-organization in the coming season while Kahne will be racing for a more established team.
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