After weeks of speculation that Kasey Kahne would be driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports next season, sources have told FOXSports.com that a deal is in the works for Martin to keep his ride and Kahne will drive for Team Red Bull in 2011. The move was first reported by Thatsracin.com.
Earlier this year, HMS signed Kahne to a contract for him to drive the No. 5 beginning in 2012, but next season was left up in the air as Hendrick tried to find a suitable ride for the popular driver.
Rumors have run rampant in the garage that Martin would step aside at the end of this season for Kahne — gossip which Martin has vehemently denied as he planned to live up to his contract, which ends after 2011.
“There’s no roadmap for me in the future,” Martin said at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month. “So don’t criticize me for 2012 and beyond because I don‘t know. I’m going to do what I want to do. For now, I’m going to drive the (No.) 5 car. That’s what I’m going to do in ‘11. That’s what I said all along. I feel very disrespected when the media doesn’t accept that. Because what that means is — you make me look like I’m going to get fired. It’s very disrespectful and I deserve better than that from (the media).
“I’ve always been very straight with you guys and any bit of waffling I’ve done in my whole career is based on being asked questions before I was ready to answer them. I should be able to do the things I want to do. I went to a limited schedule because I wanted to. I came back full time because I wanted to drive the 5 car. I never said that I was going to retire. I said I wasn’t going to run the full schedule anymore — and I changed my mind. I’m going to have a hard time telling you guys what I’m going to do for ‘12 and beyond because you pick at that like I’m indecisive. I’m at the point in my career where I get to do whatever the heck I want to do.”
Instead, Kahne has agreed to drive for Red Bull in 2011 before joining Hendrick as planned in 2012.
The deal with Red Bull is also rumored to include a switch for the outfit from Toyota to Chevrolet.
If driver Brian Vickers returns next season after sitting out the majority of this year with blood clot issues, Kahne is expected to take over for Scott Speed.
Martin and his Alan Gustafson-led Hendrick team are currently 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. Kahne and his Kenny Francis-led Richard Petty Motorsports group are 17th.
Martin, 51, has competed at NASCAR’s elite level on a consistent, full-time basis since 1988, with a pair of part-time runs mixed in there. He has finished as the championship runnerup five times and has 40 Cup wins to his credit. He joined the Hendrick organization for the 2009 season after a pair of seasons running a limited schedule for Dale Earnhardt Inc. In his debut season with Hendrick, he won five races and earned his fifth runner-up series finish.
Kahne, 30, is in his seventh full season of Cup competition. He has 11 career Cup wins and has earned a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup twice.