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Kahne leaving Petty; 2011 plans unknown
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That question is on everybody’s mind within NASCAR after his current team, Richard Petty Motorsports, announced Tuesday that the superstar driver told them he would not be returning once his contract expires at the end of the season.
“Drivers like Kasey Kahne are the very reason we got into this sport. Kasey has helped us get to where we are today,” Richard Petty Motorsports owner George Gillett said in a statement. “We wish him well in his future however we have the rest of this season to race together and we’re looking forward to a successful remainder of the year.”
According to multiple reports, Kahne is close to signing a deal which would land him a coveted spot with the sport’s premier organization, Hendrick Motorsports, in 2012.
He is unable to go straight from Petty to Hendrick at the end of this season as all four HMS drivers — Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon — are under contract with the team through at least 2011 and NASCAR rules limit teams to just four cars per organization.
Kahne is working out a deal to succeed Mark Martin in the No. 5 car in 2012.
One possible scenario has Kahne heading to Stewart-Haas Racing next season. The move would allow SHR to establish a third team while also putting Kahne in top-level Hendrick equipment immediately; SHR receives engines and chassis from Hendrick.
SHR has confirmed that they have spoken with Kahne and that there is room for a third team, but no deal has been confirmed.
"I've actually thought a lot about that but I'm not sure what I'm going to do next year," Kahne told the Associated Press after taking batting practice with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on Tuesday. "I've given it some thought though."
The 30-year-old is considered the jewel of the 2010 free agent class, which also includes former Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch and former Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick.
Kahne has been with a version of the team that is now known as RPM since 2004, when he jumped from Ford's development program to a Sprint Cup Series ride for then-owner Ray Evernham. Ford tried to fight the defection in court, but Kahne prevailed and built a successful brand as one of NASCAR's young superstars. In that span of time, he has has 11 wins, 43 top fives and 79 top 10s in Sprint Cup competition. His best season to date was in 2006 when he won six races and finished eighth in the championship.
This has been a tough season for Kahne. In his first season driving a Ford, he has just two top-10 finishes in the first seven races and is mired in 26th in the standings.
"We all wish him nothing but the best and hope he succeeds in anything he chooses to do,” said Richard Petty in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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