Last week, a blockbuster announcement was made. Richard Petty Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne will be leaving the team after the 2010 season to join forces with Hendrick Motorsports in 2011.
HMS team owner Rick Hendrick, who takes great pride in knowing he is the most powerful dignitary in the sport today, left out one important detail during the press conference, which could have put an end to all the speculating which car Kahne will be driving in 2011.
Instead, Hendrick dodged the question by saying that he is the one responsible for Kahne’s ride in 2011, and until that million dollar question is answered, all eyes and ears will continue to be focused on him, which is exactly where he wants them.
In the meantime, many of the fans have put Stewart Haas' racing at the top of the list, even though Stewart has made it clear he knows of no such arrangement.
"You guys need to talk to Kasey because we don't know anything about it," said Stewart when he first heard that his team was mentioned as a possibility.
Stewart also added that,
"If the right sponsor and right driver were to come along, we would consider a third team. But we've said that all along."
Now once again, Stewart is not saying whether Kahne will or will not end up driving for his team next season, but one thing is for sure: Kahne will drive a car next season that in some way has ties to HMS.
The move by Hendrick to sign Kahne so early in the season only tells a small story of how much he was sought after. His overall appeal goes a long way to attract the attention of NASCAR’s most influential owner.
It was no big secret to begin with that Kahne no longer wanted to be part of the RPM family, along with Richard Childress driver Kevin Harvick, who also expressed his desire to leave the confines of his team and seek employment elsewhere.
So now that Kahne is penciled in for the next five years with NASCAR’s most prolific team, the next big move on the horizon is what will Kevin Harvick decide to do once his contract expires at the end of the season?
Since there is obviously no more room at HMS, that easily leaves out them out as a possibility for Harvick to find refuge at.
One of the bigger moves being speculated by the fans was that Harvick, along with his sponsor Shell/Pennzoil, would find a nice resting place at Stewart Haas racing for either the 2010 season if RCR would have allowed him to leave, or the following year in 2011 once his contract expired.
There was story after story written about how faithful and committed Harvick’s sponsors were to him, even though he hasn’t won a race in over three years with his last win coming in 2007 during the season opening Daytona 500.
Now with the announcement that his sponsor Shell/Pennzoil will be leaving at the end of the season, what type of bargaining power does he have, especially when you look at his mediocre career since coming into the season in 2001?
Stewart has made it clear that only if the right sponsor and driver came along he would consider a third team, which would technically leave Harvick on the outside looking in, since he no longer has a sponsor.
With only 11 wins while in his 10th season racing in the Sprint cup series, along with a 115 race win-less streak, it’s easy to see why Hendrick overlooked him as a possibility to fill Martin's seat once he retires.
Or maybe Rick took offense when Harvick said that his star driver has a golden horseshoe stuck up his rear-end, while referring to the luck that the No. 48 team has.
If anything, it is now Harvick who probably wishes he had that horseshoe instead of Johnson, because from the looks of things he is not in a very good position especially with no sponsor to rally round him when it comes time to negotiate a contract.
Either way when HMS signed Kahne to his multi-year deal without giving any details of who he will be driving for in 2011, Hendrick single handedly closed the door on Harvick picking up a ride with the HMS logo anywhere on it.
Harvick will no longer be appealing with his bright red and yellow driver suit, but instead he will have to negotiate on just his name alone, which sorry to say only worsens his current situation.
His stats along with his on-track performance clearly show that he is not a championship contender in the Sprint cup series, even though he is a two-time Nationwide champion.
Owners today are looking for drivers who can bring sponsorship, or at least be appealing enough to attract one, and maybe this is a sign that Harvick should reconsider what RCR has to offer before they too recant their offer.
Now looking at the overall picture, RCR is not that bad of a team to drive for especially when Harvick just lost his one and only bargaining chip.