Tuesday, April 20, 2010
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AP source: Kahne to drive for Hendrick in 2012

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[April 20, 2010]  CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Kasey Kahne has completed a deal to drive for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 but still needs to iron out his plans for next season, The Associated Press has learned.

HardwareA person familiar with Kahne's plans spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity Tuesday because portions of Kahne's deal are still being worked out.

Most notably, it's not clear where Kahne will drive in 2011. HMS is currently at NASCAR's four-car limit, and Kahne is working out a deal to succeed Mark Martin in the No. 5 car in 2012. Martin has one more season left on an extension he signed last year, and owner Rick Hendrick plans to honor that deal.

"I've actually thought a lot about that but I'm not sure what I'm going to do next year," Kahne said after taking batting practice with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on Tuesday. "I've given it some thought though."

Earlier in the day, Richard Petty Motorsports announced that Kahne informed them he's leaving the team at the end of this season.


"Kasey is a very talented driver, and I have enjoyed watching him race," said team co-owner Richard Petty. "We all wish him nothing but the best and hope he succeeds in anything he chooses to do."

Kahne's deal with Hendrick is done, but he still must figure out where he'll race in 2011. Among his options are a potential ride with Stewart-Haas Racing, which has an alliance with Hendrick, another Chevrolet team, or, should Martin opt out of the final year of his contract, Kahne could get the No. 5 a year early.

A spokesman for Hendrick said the team owner was traveling Tuesday night and not available for comment.

Kahne has been with a version of the team that is now known as RPM since 2004, when he jumped from Ford's development program to a Sprint Cup Series ride for then-owner Ray Evernham. Ford tried to fight the defection in court, but Kahne prevailed and built a successful brand as one of NASCAR's young superstars.

Budweiser, which enjoyed tremendous success with Dale Earnhardt Jr., hooked on with Kahne in 2008 when Earnhardt moved to HMS and that team declined the beer sponsorship. With Kahne, Budweiser launched a popular re-branding that helped Kahne's brand.

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Mark Wright, vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing for Anheuser-Busch, Inc., said Budweiser is currently focused only on the current season with Kahne.

"There have been no discussions relative to our sponsorship as of yet. We look forward to having those at the appropriate time," Wright said.

Kahne has been unhappy with his overall team performance the last year or so, and has been uncharacteristically vocal with his criticism.

Although he has 11 career wins and two berths in the Chase for the Cup championship, Kahne has not felt he's had the equipment to contend for a championship. He was openly critical most of last season, when he overcame a hectic merger between Gillett-Evernham Racing and RPM and severe financial issues inside the organization to win two races and finish 10th in the Chase.

Still, a person familiar with Kahne's negotiations told AP he had decided before the season-opening Daytona 500 he would not return to RPM next season. His initial plan was to move to Joe Gibbs Racing, but those plans were contingent on sponsorship that had to be locked in by April 1.

When no deal materialized, Kahne began negotiating with Hendrick in earnest. So convinced he wants to be with NASCAR's top organization, he's willing to be patient through 2011.

He's off to a slow start this year, in large part to bad luck, and has just two top-10 finishes through seven races. He's 26th in the standings.

[Associated Press; By JENNA FRYER]

AP freelance writer Bill Arnold in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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