About two months ago Kasey Kahne and Rick Hendrick held a press teleconference to announce a contract and clarify rumors that Kahne would drive for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 5 Chevrolet now secured by Mark Martin. Some suspected that Martin would be stepping out of the No. 5 for Kahne in 2011, but not so as the new HMS contract explained was for season 2012. HMS can’t field more than their present four teams.
Kahne’s plans are still unsettled for 2011, but that's still six months away. In the time since the teleconference, no team or Cup car ride has yet been established for Kahne, but HMS is fielding many options.
Rick Hendrick’s words at the time of the press conference:
“Kasey’s record and 11 wins and 16 poles and [he] just turned 30 years old, he’s all ready one of the stars of our sport, but got a lot of years left ahead of him,” Hendrick said. “I wanted this deal so bad because I thought that he was just a perfect fit for our company with the talent he has, and it was just like the perfect guy for us.”
Kasey’s thoughts at the time of the press conference:
“I’ve never been in a situation where I’m talking to other teams,” Kahne said. “The opportunity to go and drive the 5 car in the future is just an awesome opportunity. It’s the best opportunity I could ever have, and I’m just going to make the most out of it.”
Hendrick was quick to point out Kahne’s assets.
“When you couple Kasey’s talent with his looks and his popularity, clearly, he is—would be a sponsor’s dream for anybody,” Hendrick said. “He fits in any and every category, he’s got all positives. He could work with any sponsor.”
Rick Hendrick mentioned that Kahne’s ride would be a Chevy, which would restrict him to Stewart-Haas Racing, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, or Phoenix Racing owned by James Finch. But even that could change.
Kahne demonstrated his good sense and team-player traits with comments about his present team.
“I’ve definitely talked to RPM,” Kahne said. “I’ve talked to all the people I needed to talk to. And we’re all on the same page as far as trying to finish strong, and working together and trying to do the right thing. They are excited for me and I am excited for the opportunities they will have, depending on what they want to do. Everybody wants to win; we all want to race well.”
It’s no guess that Kahne’s steady personality and a knack for fast business will suit him well in 2011 no matter what team he joins.
Jimmie Johnson commented on Kahne and understands the adjusting he will need to do.
“Knowing that Kasey will be coming in, I’m extremely excited for that opportunity,” Johnson said. “Adjusting is part of the NASCAR world. You need to have broad shoulders to deal with the struggles from week to week, stay open minded to the ever-changing sport we live in and then through the course of a race, you always have to adjust and worry about races that start in the day and go to the night.
“Those are things that if you are going to make it at the Cup level, you’ve got to be good on your feet and have to be able to adjust mentally, physically, from a technical standpoint of the car. Adjustibility needs to be in all areas to succeed.”
Kahne had comments similar to Johnson’s words about adjusting.
“I’m also looking at the future,” Kahne said. “I feel like I can adapt pretty quickly. I’ve always been able to adapt pretty quickly to situations, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. You have to adapt as a race car driver, and I’ve felt like I’ve done a decent job at that over the years. And I’m going to have to adapt a little bit and that’s just something I’m going to go through and I’m going to figure out how to do it the best I can and as quickly as I possibly can.”
Kahne’s recent comments about his 2011 ride:
“I am getting a little anxious about it,” Kahne said. “They are working hard and want it to be the right decision. Whatever is decided they want to do the right way and make sure that they come up with the perfect place for me for next year.”
As long as Kahne’s 2011 ride is more than a go-kart and less than a F1 Ferrari, no real worry should be in the mix. It’s likely that Kahne will do just fine behind any wheel even if it’s not a Chevy. After all, he’s won with Dodge and Ford at the Cup level.
For Kahne fans it’s really no time for worry; not this year, and not for 2011 or 2012. Kahne brings abundant assets and eager sponsors are sure to follow his path.
Kasey is cool and Kahne is strong.
Photo credit Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com