A few years ago the term "lame duck driver" began crossing various media outlets as a term to describe a driver that is leaving his current team for a new one the next season. During this period you wouldn't typically hear the phrase until the waning stages of an already grueling season.
The announcement of Kasey Kahne joining Hendrick Motorsports provides a new wrinkle to lame duck drivers. Think about it, it's April right now—not late April, but EARLY April.
These are the types of announcements you expect later in the year, not after the series has completed a mere seven races. Some will point to the circus that was the Junior lottery in 2007, but that story had media glitz oozing out of every crevice.
No, this is something different.
Imagine what Richard Petty Motorsports, Kenny Francis, and the likes are thinking right now. Having Kahne announce he's leaving at, say, Indy, leaves a short stretch of season where you can focus on running your best week in and week out.
It's the proverbial "What have we got to lose?" method.
I venture you cannot employ such a method at this point in the season. There are 29 Cup races left, not counting the All-Star race in May. Twenty years ago, the Cup season itself was only 29 races long.
How can Kahne, RPM, and Francis expect to keep themselves motivated for such a long period of time while knowing they are not building toward the future? What is going to motivate Kahne to give 110 percent, even when the team struggles during the season?
It seems we're just a few years away from a driver announcing, prior to the 2015 Daytona 500, that he'll be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2016. That may not be as far-fetched as it may seem.
Now Kahne will spend the next seven months driving for a team which he has already told he no longer wishes to be a part of. It will be a true test to the type of driver and person Kahne is if he is to persevere in such a unique challenge.
Let's just hope that this is an abnormality and not a sign of the future—for the fans, the sport, and all of the teams involved.