Big news in the NASCAR world Wednesday night, as Kasey Kahne has been released from Richard Petty Motorsports with five races left in the season, clearing the way for him to join Red Bull Racing sooner than expected.
News is still breaking at this writing, but the Charlotte Observer's Jim Utter initially reported that Kahne was in negotiations to leave RPM and jump to Red Bull, perhaps as soon as this weekend. It was mildly surprising, but given the disputes this past weekend between Kahne and his crew, which were the culmination of many weeks of frustration, perhaps an inevitability.
What was more of a shock was what came only a few minutes later, as Sirius/XM and AP/Yahoo! Sports' Jenna Fryer reported almost simultaneously that Kahne was out at RPM. Richard Petty Motorsports released the following statement: "Kasey Kahne has been released from his driving duties with Richard Petty Motorsports effective immediately. Aric Almirola will pilot the No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event this weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Driver line-up beyond Martinsville is to be determined."
Almirola had been scheduled to drive the Red Bull No. 83, so it's fairly obvious what will happen next. However, Kahne was reportedly taken by surprise by RPM's release. The No. 9 car was the only one he'd driven at the Sprint Cup level, and while he was preparing for a move to Red Bull next season, he obviously wasn't expecting it to occur so quickly.
Speculating for now, this appears to be a case of "you can't quit; you're fired." More, obviously, as the situation develops.