Sources close to ESPN have confirmed that Kasey Kahne, driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 9 Budweiser Ford, who would have undeniably been the hottest free agent coming out of the 2010 season, has signed a multi-year deal to drive for Hendrick Motorsports.
The negotiations, which are still ongoing, would put Kahne into an HMS race car by the beginning of the 2011 season.
Sources close to ESPN have said that a decision on whose ride Kahne will take over has not been released, along with who his sponsor will be, if in fact Budweiser does not follow him in 2011.
As far as the current contract situation stands at HMS, the only realistic choice would be for Kahne to take over the No.5 car which is currently being driven by Mark Martin.
Since Martin’s contract will be the first to expire after the 2011 season, HMS might give Martin a release from his final year the same way they let Kyle Busch go after the 2007 season.
It was also speculated that Kahne could possibly drive a third car for Stewart Haas racing in 2011, which is considered a satellite HMS team , in anticipation of Martin retiring after the 2011 season which would put Kahne in the No. 5 after Martins retirement.
Busch who said at the time that he never felt he was pushed out after HMS learned that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leaving DEI after the 2007, had this to say when his negotiations took a turn for the worse.
"Then Junior announced his availability and then that's where we kind of stalled out again,” said Busch.
Busch also added that, "I'm not stupid. You guys aren't stupid. It's kind of common sense, I guess?"
Kahne, who is in his final year of his contract at RPM, has made it clear since last season that he wanted out of his contract, and with today’s news it is clear that he will no longer have that lingering over his head.
Kahne will finish out the rest of the 2010 season with RPM. Comments from HMS, or Kahne have yet to be released as of this time. RPM did release this statement earlier confirming that Kahne will be leaving the team.
“Kasey is a very talented driver and I have enjoyed watching him race. We all wish him nothing but the best and hope he succeeds in anything he chooses to do,” said team owner Richard Petty.
“Drivers like Kasey Kahne are the very reason we got into this sport. Kasey has helped us get to where we are today,” said George Gillett, owner of Richard Petty Motorsports.
Special Thanks To ESPN for Content.