The rich, if you believe rumors, are getting even richer.
Multiple reports have Kasey Kahne heading Rick Hendrick's way. ESPN's Marty Smith, citing "multiple sources," is reporting that Kasey Kahne is headed to Hendrick Motorsports starting in 2011, though where exactly he'd get a seat is still up in the air. Regardless, this is a move that is going to cement Hendrick's standing atop NASCAR for years to come.
It's a perfect match -- Hendrick is the top team in NASCAR, Kahne is one of the top free agents and the best driver not already aligned with a top-flight team. Just one question remains: what car would Kahne drive?
NASCAR teams are permitted only four drivers, and Hendrick is at that number with the marquee quartet of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin. Johnson and Gordon aren't going anywhere; Johnson is signed through 2015, and Gordon's got a lifetime deal. Earnhardt is in the third year of a five-year deal, and regardless, he's a walking license to print money. And last season Martin signed an extension through 2011.
A plausible scenario would have Kahne drive for Stewart-Haas in 2011, then switch to the Hendrick in 2012 when Martin vacates the No. 5.
What that means is that options for Kevin Harvick just narrowed considerably. Long thought to be a leading contender for a third car at Stewart-Haas, Harvick would find himself with no option better than remaining at Richard Childress Racing.
For Kahne, however, remaining at Richard Petty Motorsports is hardly an option. Kahne has made no secret of his frustration with team operations, and the news this week of RPM's financial woes should only cement his desire to start the next phase of his career elsewhere. No word yet on whether Budweiser, Kahne's highly desirable sponsor, will accompany him wherever he goes.
Long considered one of the best drivers in NASCAR but too often saddled with subpar equipment, Kahne has won 11 Cup races in his career. He's one of the classic "wonder what he could do in a better car" guys, and if this report is true, we're about to find out.
More, obviously, as this develops.
- Rick Hendrick