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April 14th, 2010
HARRISBURG, N.C. — Kasey Kahne will join Hendrick Motorsports to drive the No. 5 Chevrolet beginning with the 2012 season, but Kahne’s plans for 2011 are far from determined.
“Knowing that Mark (Martin) was wanting to retire after the 2011 season, we just looked at this as a golden opportunity to pick up such a great talent,” said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick.
Kahne, currently the driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford at Richard Petty Motorsports, will finish the 2010 season before moving on to an as-yet unknown team in 2011. He will then join Hendrick Motorsports for the 2012 season.
“I talked to all the teams over the last couple months and I just felt Hendrick Motorsports was the best opportunity, the best place for myself and my future,” said Kahne, whose contract with Hendrick Motorsports will run through the 2015 season. “We’re going to figure out 2011 shortly, but right now we don’t know. We’ll definitely figure that out and it’ll be something really good.”
Kahne is unable to join Hendrick Motorsports next year because of NASCAR’s mandate preventing team owners from expanding beyond four race teams. All of Hendrick’s current drivers are signed through at least 2011, when Martin’s contract expires.
Hendrick did confirm that he is contractually obligated to find Kahne a car to drive during the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup campaign and, no matter where he lands, Kahne will be driving a Chevrolet.
“It’s my responsibility,” Hendrick said. “My goal is to put him in the best situation to win races and win a championship. We realize we’ve got to do something in 2011. We’re going to adhere to the NASCAR policy and do it according to what their rules and regulations are. This was just too good an opportunity for me to pass up.
“It’s clearly all on my shoulders and I’m committed to giving him the best opportunity and putting him in the place for 2011 that we can come up with,” Hendrick added. “I see him as a future star and a guy that is going to be racing here for a long time winning races and winning championships. We’re going to figure out 2011. If this were under the old regime I’d have a new building over here and I’ve have five teams. But I can’t do that.”
Much of the speculation about where Kahne will drive in 2011 has suggested Stewart-Haas Racing or JR Motorsports as possible destinations because of Hendrick’s relationship with both operations. Hendrick said he has had no conversations about placing Kahne with either team.
Hendrick didn’t dismiss the idea that Martin, who signed a two-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports last year, would step aside a year early so that Kahne may drive the No. 5 Chevrolet, though he said it was highly unlikely.
“Mark has said he wants to drive that car and that’s the way we are headed,” Hendrick said. “It would have to be Mark Martin saying he does not want to do what he told me he wanted to do.”
Kahne is an 11-time Sprint Cup race winner. He has also earned 16 pole positions, 43 top-five finishes and 79 top 10s in Sprint Cup competition.