Winners and losers in Kahne's move to Red Bull Racing in 2011
After a four-month circus, the
The fairy-tale ending came with just one catch: Martin was set on finishing out his contract with Hendrick through 2011, leaving a difficult one-year window to fill, while achieving the goal of keeping Kahne competitive elsewhere. It wasn't easy, but the Red Bull Racing partnership equals mission accomplished for everyone. The 30-year-old slides into a team that won a race and made the Chase last season with
"They want to win," said Red Bull Racing GM
That may be true, although Kahne doesn't quite have the trophy-toting credentials and charisma of Favre. But is it enough to bump this team up a notch? Probably. The first order of business will be bringing current RPM crew chief
"I like our relationship," Kahne said of the duo. "I like what we've accomplished together, and think we can accomplish a lot more. He's definitely one of my main guys."
Should that pair stay together, it'll revitalize an organization that will have two proven winners in the fold for the first time: Kahne and Vickers. With Vickers set to return this February after being sidelined by blood clots, the duo has the potential to pull an Earnhardt-Ganassi and win a handful of races while threatening to qualify for the Chase. Plus, Kahne gets to enjoy the laid back lifestyle of a Red Bull athlete and all the perks that go with it, the part he was most excited about during a Tuesday teleconference with reporters. It all adds up to a lot of positives for a guy considered a future superstar under the right circumstances.
I've talked to people who claim it's impossible for a future Hendrick/GM driver to run under a different manufacturer. But consider Hendrick isn't exactly a full-time Chevy guy, either. He has a handful of
"Rick Hendrick is a friend to our company," said Toyota President
The sport's shrewdest businessman was then left with easy pickings, able to convince Red Bull execs that Kahne would provide enough of a one-year marketing and economic boost to make him worth having. In the process, he unloads Kahne's contract and gets double publicity through two manufacturers without breaking NASCAR's four-team rule with a more direct partnership through, say,
Others do think differently, thinking RBR will still get sucked into the Hendrick/GM family. But even in that scenario, Hendrick makes out like a bandit, adding a third chassis/engine client to his repertoire that already includes SHR. It's notable the Red Bull owners themselves haven't made a comment on this move; wouldn't you trot yourselves out in public for a signing of this magnitude? But none of that concerns Hendrick much with his primary team; he now enjoys the stability of the same four-driver lineup three years in a row next season while moving on to the next problem:
And as for 2012? Ownership could still be in the cards for the 51-year-old veteran. But now, instead of being forced to make that choice he can decide over time if taking that step is right for him.
The other thing that doesn't make sense is Frye's assertion Hendrick's not paying a dime to put Kahne in the seat. Check out this quote from a June
"I understand the economic conditions of the sport right now, but things are not going well there [financially]," he said.
Fast forward to Tuesday, when Frye claimed an expansion to three cars (in order to keep both Vickers and Speed) is a possibility. Talk about a direct contradiction; the whole thing makes no sense unless there was a financial boost from somewhere. It could be from Toyota paying for a one-year deal to grab Kahne, it could be another sort of financial windfall ... but someone, somewhere is helping this deal out.
It all adds up to a bunch of question marks for 2012 and beyond. For 2011, there's bound to be some improvement, but anything short of two cars in the Chase may not be worth it if the program is left vulnerable over the long-term.
In the end, Red Bull offered two things Finch could not: A) Sponsorship already in place and B) A program that had a history of being competitive. While Finch has start-and-parked for the vast majority of races, RBR is one year removed from the Chase and has six top-10 finishes. The No. 09 has just one, and their 2011 chances of full-time funding might be zero after this latest announcement.
At worst, Speed finds himself the odd man out with few options this late in Silly Season. Either way, it's not ideal for someone who's clearly regressed since a strong start left him well inside the top 12 this March.