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Published on January 19th, 2010 | by Michael J Smith

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If Kahne Leaves RPM; He May Have Four Options

According to Jayski’s 2010 team chart, Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 00, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s No. 1, Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11, Richard Childress Racing’s No. 29, Front Row Motorsports’ No. 34, Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 36, TRG Motorsports’ No. 71, Red Bull Racing’s No. 82, and Robert Yates Racing/Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 98 could have open seats at the end of the 2010 season.

Dave Newton at ESPN tweeted:

@kaseykahne says [Richard Petty Motorsports] has made ‘me an offer already’ but he wants to wait and see what other offers come.

If Kasey Kahne decides ultimately to leave RPM, it’s likely that he’ll be looking at one of the seats listed above. There’s always a small chance that a Nationwide Series team could approach him about making a move to Sprint Cup. But, it’s much more likely that Kahne will want to go to an established team that is capable of winning.

Assuming that the rides listed above are available, Kahne is most likely to consider the 00, 1, 11, 29, and the 82 because those seats are with larger teams that are capable of winning now.
 
It’s highly unlikely JGR will let Denny Hamlin walk without offering him a lucrative contract extension. Given his 2009 performance – assuming there’s no drop off in 2010 – Hamlin should be back in the No. 11 in 2011 and beyond.

We can also eliminate the No. 98 from consideration because that’s an RPM team. Why would Kahne make a lateral move for no reason? He wouldn’t.

That leaves the Nos. 00, 1, 29, and 82.
 
I would be surprised in Michael Waltrip let go of David Reutimann at the end of next season. Reutimann brought the team its first victory, and if he turns in a halfway-decent performance next year, there’s no way Waltrip forgets that. Reutimann has done a lot to make the team respectable, allowing them to attract Martin Truex Jr. So, I don’t think MWR will let him go unless he drops out of the top-35 in points next season. So, for argument’s sake we can remove that one from the list.

That would leave EGR, RCR, and RBR vying for Kahne. All three teams are capable of winning, even though RCR struggled last year. So, what ride Kahne lands in could depend on the performances of Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, and Scott Speed.

If RCR struggles, Harvick could – and probably would – leave the team. He reportedly asked to be let out of his contract last season, though his wish was not granted. He, too, might be vying for the No. 1 or No. 82. But, I suspect that if he leaves, he might take his Kevin Harvick Inc. team Sprint Cup racing. Harvick made a big deal of winning in his own stuff, so it’s possible that could be his plan for 2011, if things sour at RCR.

Given his history with Chip Ganassi, I don’t think McMurray will be one and done, if he posts decent finishes in his first year in an EGR car. McMurray’s a pretty good restrictor plate driver, so if he posts solid finishes there, or a win, he’d return to the ride in 2011. That said, if it came down to Kahne or McMurray, I suspect EGR would choose Kahne because he has posted more impressive results throughout his career.

Barring a complete implosion, I would think Kahne would have to consider RCR’s No. 29. Despite last year’s struggles, the team is still solid and has tremendous resources. Adding in the fact that the team is focusing on being a three-car team, RCR could become stronger by eliminating waste. (Not being stretched too thin.)

There’s also a very small chance that in 2011, RCR would try to lure Kahne by going back to a four-car team, if Harvick re-signs. I don’t think that will happen, but stranger things have.

Based on results alone, you have to think Scott Speed is on the chopping block. He’s struggled thought his entire Sprint Cup career, and is not posting solid results. He will not be guaranteed a starting spot in the first five races because he is not in the top-35 in owner’s points. If he misses some races, and falls further behind, he could be out of the No. 82 at the end of the year.

With the emergence of Brian Vickers as a contender, RBR is likely to start looking at the team to see what is missing, since it would be obvious that it is not the equipment. They might come to the conclusion that it’s Speed. Should that happen, Kahne would have to look there, considering the team has sponsorship lined up. But, if the team is outside the top-35 that would probably influence Kahne’s decision.

Should Kahne, or Harvick for that matter, become free agents in 2011, both will also be linked to a possible third team with Stewart Haas Racing. I think that — as long as SHR doesn’t actually expand – all of the big named free agents will be linked to a third SHR Chevy until they do expand. Harvick was reportedly linked to the team last season.

At this point, I think that Harvick will leave and go to a third SHR Chevy or will bring KHI to the Sprint Cup next season, unless he finishes in the top 5 in points. I don’t think he’ll finish in the top 5, mainly because of the competition, not his driving skills. So, he’ll leave. In doing so, he will leave the No. 29 vacant, which will allow Kahne to sign with RCR. This is all speculation, but that’s what I think will happen.

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About the Author

Michael J. Smith is a NASCAR enthusiast and blogger. In addition to founding this website, Michael is a journalist with over a decade of experience writing for prestigious media organizations.



7 Responses to If Kahne Leaves RPM; He May Have Four Options

  1. Stoli says:

    Why don’t you think Kasey will return to Richard Petty Motorsports?

  2. Lead Lap says:

    There’s a small chance that Kahne will return to RPM, but I don’t think its likely, at least at this point.

    The switch to Ford may prove successful, leading Kahne to reconsider staying with the team. But, with Dodge’s struggles of late, Dodge teams haven’t been as competitive as Chevy and Ford.

    And even there, Chevy has the slight advantage. Kahne could have some loyalty to Ford, but I don’t have reason to believe he does. So, I think he’ll look at his best chance to win.

    If everything stays the same as it was last season — even with RCR’s struggles — you have to believe they give Kahne a better opportunity to compete for wins/the championship than RPM.

  3. SmokeScrn14 says:

    Is Michael Waltrip Racing really capable of winning now?

    Reutimann did win a race last season, but it was rain shortened. So, can you really say that they’re capable of winning now?

  4. Neagle says:

    What do you make of the stories that Kahne is considering staying with RPM?

  5. Lead Lap says:

    @SmokeScrn14 I do think MWR is capable of winning. Winning a race is winning a race. It doesn’t matter if you win by .001 seconds of by one lap; it doesn’t matter if you win due to rain, to fuel strategy, or to a dominant car. In the end all that matters is that you crossed the finish line first, and hoisted the trophy in victory lane. So, even though it was under a rain shortened race, Reutimann won, and that’s all that matters. The team was competitive, and has more resources than a small team. They may not be on par with Hendrick Motorsports, but I think they have a shot at winning at least one race this season.

    @Neagle I think Kahne wants to leave. I don’t think he would come out and publicly say that at the beginning of his final season under contract with them. Why burn the bridge now? I also think he will consider staying with the team, if the performance is there. But, the real question is, how good would the team need to be for him to stay? If he were still with the same team, Evernham Motorsports, that he started with, then it probably would not need to be great, just solid. He’d feel like he should consider loyalty. But, since Evernham took on the Gilletts, then the team merged with Petty Enterprises, and now Robert Yates Racing, he might not feel loyal, since those weren’t the teams that hired him. Only Kahne knows what he will do. I think right now he’s saying the right things to the media. But ultimately, I think he will leave.

    As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting.

  6. Tommy says:

    Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

  7. Pingback: The Lead Lap | Report: Kahne Signs Multi-Year Deal With HMS

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