As the dust settles from
So who's having a tall glass of Budweiser in Kahne's honor and who's switching to Miller Lite? Read below for a list of winners and losers impacted by this latest power shift:
Fellow Chevy team. SHR looking to expand. Hendrick gives SHR engines, chassis, information and free massages on Tuesdays. I think I might know where Kahne ends up; and it's a coup for Stewart, who's already good friends with the former Sprint Car veteran, making him a perfect fit within the SHR dynamic. Not only could the trio put all three cars in the Chase next year, but when Kahne leaves in 2012, Stewart's got a team up and running for his next possible "cash cow:"
Yes, that's right; the IndyCar diva should be primed and ready to bolt for NASCAR by then, with the long-term future of her series in doubt. And with Earnhardt's own future uncertain (we'll get to that in a minute), she's more likely to land with an experienced team like SHR than be the guinea pig for JR Motorsports making their jump up to Cup.
Now, compare that to what was said yesterday when asked about the future of Hendrick driver changes: "I'll probably retire before I need anyone else." Considering the status of Hendrick driver contracts, that's probably true unless Earnhardt leaves or Gordon retires earlier than expected.
Is that a bad thing for Keselowski? Probably not. He's not a great fit for the Hendrick mold and would be fifth, maybe sixth on the totem pole there. At Penske, he gets to build a winner over the long-term and use the secrets he learned while driving for
So will Earnhardt break contract and jump ship to go somewhere else? If it happens, Hendrick won't pull the trigger; he's making too much off souvenir sales. But another year of struggles for Little E might make places like Childress or having another go at buying the old DEI operation (now Earnhardt Ganassi) more appealing.
NASCAR released a weak statement Thursday, claiming, "Based on conversations with Hendrick Motorsports, the company has a clear understanding of the multi-car rule and will abide by it. NASCAR will ensure that the rule is followed, as it has with other teams with similar circumstances." In other words, they're wussing out, allowing more power and cars to consolidate into the hands of a few.
Let's stop and think for a minute. If you're a new car owner looking to get into the sport, how in the world do you compete against the Hendrick / Stewart-Haas powerhouse? Hendrick claims the answer is, "to hire good people," but to buy the engines, chassis and equipment those people can work with now takes millions upon millions. The business model for aspiring new owners in the sport is now broken; and when the economy recovers, you can only shut people out for so long before their frustration builds into making an alternative series of their own.