Kasey Kahne: Is Going to Hendrick Motorsports the Right Thing to Do?

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst IOctober 26, 2010

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 23:  Kasey Kahne, driver of the #83 Red Bull Toyota, stands in the garage prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 23, 2010 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton /Getty Images

Everybody knew that Kasey Kahne was in trouble with Richard Petty Motorsports, as he hasn’t been able to have the same success as of late in his career as he did the first few years. As according to one fan I spoke with, he has so much potential, but was being held back by the team.

Another fan, Steeve Melson, said, “When given great equipment, he sure can wheel a car. An example would be when he drives the nationwide No. 38 car where he's always at the front. or he's won two truck races in three starts with really great teams, and the one he didn't win he was competing at the front the entire race.”

Evidence can be seen that Richard Petty Motorsports is not the best team right now, as Elliott Sadler announced he was leaving also, and currently, A.J. Allmendinger sits 20th in points.

So in April, Kahne made the announced he’d be going to Red Bull Racing in 2011, followed by Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. Is this the right move?

The best way to look to see if the move was the right move is to poll the fans and see what they say.

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“I think that it's great for Kasey to get a better ride and a chance to do well,” Kristina Blinova said.

“I think it will take some time for him to get use to the 83 team, but it's a step in the right direction for him to be on par to start the 2011 season with that team,” Steeve Melson said. “At least by then he will have been around the team longer and hopefully they can build some kind of trust and work together. I am still looking forward to the ‘12 season though the most as I think he will shine more in the No. 5 car then ever before.”

“It's a good move on Kahne’s part in the fact he has a better chance to succeed at HMS then he did at RPM,” Kyle Sedan said. “I believe that, but going to HMS doesn't automatically equal success. Not to discount the No. 24, No. 5 or No. 88, but looking at Johnson and the No. 48, people’s views get clouded and it makes HMS look unbeatable. To be honest, both the No. 88 & No. 5 teams this season have been 'average' at best. Going to HMS doesn't equal success, joining the 48 team would equal success.”

Sedan brings up an interesting point, as there are some theorists out there that believe Rick Hendrick has all his eggs in the Johnson basket and that the No. 5/88 shop is the “guinea pig” team.

With that being said, it begs the question for us to ask if Kahne will be the next one subjected, considering he’ll have the lowest star power.

“Welcome to people and their own theories,” Danny said. “Do you honestly see Rick Hendrick doing something like with the type of person he is?”

“I can't say I'm so sure that would happen,” Sedan said. “I think Kahne will get equal opportunity to run well like the No. 48 does, but I think the "No. 48 team" as a core is just so strong in itself. Now of course that could change in 2012 depending on where each team is in points, I'm sure this year for example when the No. 5 and No. 88 were clearly not making the chase, they experimented with things to help the No. 24 and No. 48, but I don't think from the 'get-go' that will be the purpose of No. 5 team just to be the 'guinea pig,' as you pointed out. It's an interesting theory and very well could be true, but I don't see that being the case.”

“I can't really say for certain if he will be the one that is running the worst and used as a guinea pig,” Melson said. “I do know that Dale Jr. hasn't run well at all since coming to Hendrick and I am not quite sure why that may be. It could be something as simple as moving some guys around within the organization.”

The No. 5 and No. 88 shop hasn’t equaled the ability of the No. 24 and No 48 shop, which is obvious through the years. Ex-Crew Chief Tony Eury Jr., who worked with Dale Earnhardt Jr., mentioned in an interview with David Newton of ESPN that there were some issues with the guys in the shop.

"The chemistry and the people," Tony Eury Jr. said. "There's nothing else about it. It's two different worlds. I give Chad and Stevie [Letarte, Gordon's crew chief] credit. They've got it going on. It's pretty remarkable to walk in there and see the organization and how that team pulls together and the people they've got. They're two lucky guys."

The No. 5/88 shop tried to replicate that chemistry in the offseason by making changes. Instead of helping the situation, however, Dale Earnhardt Jr. still didn’t run that good and it threw Mark Martin off his base.

So how could that effect Kahne when he comes over? It will look as if not to help his issues as it’d have him sitting in the same seat as Martin and Earnhardt Jr. right now.

“The changes made between Mark and Dale Jr were made to help Dale Jr, but that could have been another issue within the No. 5 camp this year,” Melson comments. “They had a such a great season last year that honestly I wouldn't have changed that team around; I would have built off of last season.

See, Kahne will step in for the ‘12 season, and by then, the No. 5 camp should have some things turned around by then. I feel it's better for the No. 5 team to fix their issues now before Kahne shows up instead of having the issues while Kahne is starting out. I think they'll be fine.”

Though Melson also eludes to the fact that the cars have changed and that may not work for Martin’s style.

“Mark Martin had an amazing season last year and this year he's not so hot,” Melson said. “I have a feeling that the changes made in the car has made it much more difficult for him to drive. Mark is an old school driver and some of those guys seem to lack the ability to adapt to the cars as of late.”

If that’s the case with Martin, is this just an off-year for him and does this continue to represent what some call Earnhardt’s communication issues? There are already rumors out there by ESPN that Earnhardt may possibly get a new crew chief next year. Will that solve the issues? Or will that just hurt them?

If you believe in the team chemistry issue, it’d hurt them, as it’d offer another change to the shop, and as according to Alan Gustafson in David Newton’s article, it could make the problem worse due to lack of consistency with the shop.

“If you want what the 24 and 48 has, don't think you're going to bring in a team or hire one guy and get it done," Gustafson says. "You're going to get it methodically and over time. I’ve been there with Tony, I've been there with Lance, I've been there with Dale. I'm telling you, you can't build that overnight.

"You could put Chad over there and it would take time."

If you believe in the Earnhardt-communication theory, then possibly bringing in Ron Malec, who has been primed under the watchful eyes of Jimmie Johnson, or Tony Eury Sr. into the mix with Earnhardt, could change things. Either way, it definitely has the future opening doors of interest and will keep the fans buzzing with opinions week-to-week.

In Kahne’s first start with Red Bull Racing at Martinsville, he finished 14th after starting 33rd on track where he has only two top-10s and an average finish of 19.1.

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