Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports is counting down the top 20 drivers of the 2011 season. The order was determined by a survey, which asked five NASCAR journalists – Jay Busbee and Jay Hart (Yahoo! Sports), Jenna Fryer (Associated Press), Dustin Long (Landmark Newspapers) and Nate Ryan (USA Today) – to predict the final standings for the 2011 season. The countdown will conclude on Feb. 11 with the unveiling of the No. 1 driver.
No. 19: Kasey Kahne | Career stats
No. 18: Revealed Jan. 19
2010 finish: 20th
Our 2011 predictions:
• Jay Busbee: 15th
• Jay Hart: 15th
• Jenna Fryer: 17th
• Dustin Long: 19th
• Nate Ryan: 19th
2011 outlook: It's a question worth asking: As he waits to make the move to Hendrick Motorsports, is Kasey Kahne wasting away potentially the best years of his racing career?
While Kahne's contract with Hendrick officially begins next season, his period of living in limbo will eat up more than just one year. The 2010 season was largely a waste for Kahne, and there is little confidence that his one-year stay with Red Bull (where Hendrick is parking him this season) will be much better.
By the time he joins Hendrick, Kahne will be approaching 32, nine years into a career that's yet to meet the lofty expectations planted on him ever since he won a series-high six races back in 2006. Though he won't exactly be past his prime, he is forsaking at least part of it in hopes that Hendrick will enable him to become the driver he thinks he can be.
Even though it is Hendrick Motorsports we're talking about, it's still a gamble, especially considering how things have worked out for the last big-name driver to join the HMS brigade.
All of this being said, we wouldn't be shocked if Kahne were to win a race or two in 2011 and qualify for the Chase. He is, after all, in limbo – a place defined as the border of heaven and hell.
What you need to know: Kahne will drive the No. 4 Red Bull car in 2011. Brian Vickers will be back in the No. 83, which Kahne drove for the last five races of 2010. Red Bull has opted to ditch the No. 82 in favor of the No. 4.