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Woody: Kahne Fast Off Track Too

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 16 2010

Kasey Kahne hopes will be moving next year, but where to? (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

There’s something odd about this week’s announcement that Kasey Kahne is leaving Richard Petty Motorsports to drive for Hendrick Motorsports.

Kasey can’t get in a Hendrick car until the 2012 season. Hendrick has four drivers signed through 2011, and four is the max permitted by NASCAR.

Since Kahne can’t join Hendrick until 2012, what’s the rush to bail out on the Petty team?

Obviously nobody expects a driver with Kahne’s combination of talent and marketability to sit out next season twiddling his thumbs. He’ll drive for somebody, somewhere. The smart money is on Stewart Hass Racing.

Stewart-Hass is sort of a subsidiary of Hendrick Motorsports; drivers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman use Hendrick’s powerful motors each week to try to beat Hendrick drivers. (Yes, it IS an odd arrangement, sort of like the Baltimore Colts loaning the Pittsburgh Steelers their playbook before they take the field against each other.)

But back to Kahne: It’s no secret that the Petty team has struggled. It’s no secret that Kahne wants to drive for a winner, and no team has a better track record than Hendrick. It’s a plum ride and Kahne will be a perfect fit in Hendrick’s galaxy of stars.

But again, why the big rush to make the announcement now, just seven races into the season? Especially since Kahne can’t join Hendrick until year after next.

I’ve read all the quotes from Richard Petty: he’s fond of Kasey, considers him a talented young driver, wishes him well, yada-yada … but the fact is that Kahne’s odd timing will not serve the team well. Petty Motorsports still has 29 races to run with its lame-duck driver.

I could understand making the announcement this week if Kasey were going to join Hendrick next week. Or next month. But in 2012?

Maybe I’m naturally suspicious, but I don’t get it. I suspect there’s more involved than we’re being told – perhaps an understanding with Stewart Hass pending a secret sponsorship negotiation.

But I could be wrong. Maybe Kasey’s just a slow packer.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 16 2010
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