Published August 14, 2010
Consider how strange it must be to be in Kasey Kahne's shoes right now.
The former winged sprint car racer from Enumclaw, Wash., drove Dodges for Ray Evernham from 2004 to the middle of 2007, when Evernham sold majority control of the team to Canadian sports maven George Gillett.
In January 2009, Gillett reorganized the team and renamed it Richard Petty Motorsports in what was termed a merger but in reality was not much more than getting the Petty name for the team.
Prior to the the start of this season, RPM “merged” with Yates Racing, moved the team’s shops 60 miles and switched from Dodge to Ford. In the process, the old Evernham Motorsports engine program was shut down and many of the former Evernham workers lost jobs.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Kahne will drive Toyotas for Red Bull Racing next year. Still to be determined is whether Red Bull will be a three-car team with Kahne, Brian Vickers and Scott Speed, or a two-car team with Kahne and Vickers or Speed, or even Kahne and someone else.
Through it all — and there have been lots of rumors about RPM having financial woes in the past two years — Kahne has powered through the distractions and tried to perform at a high level.
Although he likely will miss the Chase for the Sprint Cup this year, Kahne’s season has had several high points, including runner-up finishes in the first race at Michigan International Speedway and the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
Friday at MIS, Kahne put his No. 9 RPM Ford on the pole for Sunday’s Carfax 400, and he backed it up Saturday morning, when he was third-fastest in the opening round of two practice sessions. Considering all the chaos Kahne has had to live with this year, that’s pretty impressive.
Kahne said he’s especially happy to have his 2011 plans sewed up after four months of wondering where was going to drive for the year before he moves to Hendrick.
“I think it is nice to have that done with and know for myself where I am going,” said Kahne. “I can focus on the end of the year with the Bud team and Richard Petty Motorsports. I don’t know how much that has been on my mind. I feel like I am focused pretty hard each week and trying to do the right things. It is something that I definitely think about a lot. As far as the team goes, they showed up this week just like they have done each week. They are solid every week and it is nice to work with them each weekend.”
To his credit, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis have kept the RPM team together in the wake of all the uncertainty surrounding the organization over the past several seasons.
“I feel like we have a really strong team,” Kahne said. “Kenny Francis does a great job with them. Keith (Rodden), our engineer, does an awesome job. The communication between the three of us is really good and will stay good throughout the rest of the year. As long as we keep getting what we need there and what everybody else is getting, we shouldn’t have any problems. The guys want to work hard and do a good job through the rest of the season building the cars and once we get to the race track. Hopefully that doesn’t change. I don’t see why it would. I have seen it change in the past with certain people and certain teams, but I don’t see why it would with ours.”
And Kahne said he’s looking forward to next year, too.
“I want to win races and run competitively and make the Chase,” said Kahne, when asked about his move to Red Bull. “There are things I think you can do there. Red Bull has shown they can do it in the past and I feel like we will be able to do it next year. I want to enjoy myself, look forward to coming to the race track and be competitive. There are a lot of things that come along with racing for those guys that will make it fun and enjoyable and I am looking forward to it all.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.