Mr. Hendrick, this Kahne's for you.
So how did the Blue Oval crowd lose one of its prized "young guns?" The ugly truth is they never had a ghost of a chance to keep him. Instead, insiders claim Kahne's move to the sport's Chevy powerhouse fulfilled a longstanding wish to get even. Apparently, the veteran's hatred never faded from an awkward 2003 divorce from Ford to drive the No. 9 Cup car for
He's been wheeling the No. 9 car ever since, although its ownership turned just as shady as
That return to Ford, combined with his car's shaky financial future led to the final straw for Kahne at RPM. Yet even with his current ride crumbling, sources say
What will Kahne drive in the Hendrick stable? Chances are none of the team's four cars in 2011. Sources confirmed
For months, speculation has centered on
Looking ahead, there are now three levels in NASCAR: poor, rich, and Hendrick. Even if Bud doesn't sign with their program, Kahne's a marketing machine; his boyish good looks leaving him one of the sport's most popular drivers with female fans. Partnered with powerhouse companies like Allstate, McDonald's, and Pepsi/Mountain Dew throughout his career, he's a sponsor's dream who'll attract millions more into Hendrick's seemingly unlimited bank account. Most importantly, if Earnhardt keeps struggling and winds up leaving next season, they've got great insurance to swing behind the wheel of the No. 88 (and who knows; maybe in that scenario, Martin will unretire for the 4,677th time).
The bottom line is the Yankees have struck again, and with
As for Richard Petty Motorsports, their short and long-term prognoses look bleak. Kahne's departure leaves them with two marginal drivers (
The driver will certainly have a lot of growing up to do at Hendrick; he's been paired with crew chief
Can Kahne become Johnson's chief rival at Hendrick? Probably not. But he'll win races, be freed of his enemies and enjoy unprecedented job security. Sometimes, after being surrounded by chaos for years all you want is to slam the door, put it all behind you, and start over.
That's exactly what Kahne has done with this move; but the earthquake he caused won't stop shaking in NASCAR for a long time to come.