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Woody: Kahne Puts Petty In Bind

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 24 2010

Richard Petty Motorspors crew members push Kasey Kahne's current car through the garages at Talladega on Friday. Whose car will they be pushing next year?(Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight:

If Kasey Kahne has to choose between driving for Richard Petty Motorsports or nobody next season, he’ll choose nobody?

That’s what Kasey said when he announced plans to leave RPM at the end of this season: he doesn’t know where he’ll be next season.

Of course nobody expects Kahne to sit out next year while waiting to take over Mark Martin’s ride at Hendrick Motorports in 2012. But according to Kahne, he is jumping before he has a place to land.

That poses two questions:

One: If Kasey doesn’t have a ride lined up for next year, why the rush to leave Petty; or at least why not wait until the season is about over to announce his departure?

Two: What sort of morale-crushing message does this send to the Petty organization, its personnel and its sponsors?

Look, nobody can fault Kahne, 30, for wanting to seize the best driving job possible, and right now that means Hendrick.

Likewise, nobody can blame boss Rick Hendrick for wanting to add one of NASCAR’s most talented, marketable young drivers to his stable of superstars.

But Kahne and Hendrick can’t consummate their deal for almost two years, so why put Petty Motorsports in a bind for the rest of this season?

Forget all the PR spin: this is an absolute morale-buster for the Petty team. It’s bad enough that a driver wants out; it’s stunning that he’s so eager to leave that he plans to depart even though he doesn’t have another ride lined up next year.

Note to Kasey: Unemployment checks aren’t very big.

Again, nobody expects Kahne to cool his heels next season. He’s sure to drive for somebody, somewhere, while waiting for Martin to vacate the Hendrick premises.

But that still leaves the remainder of this season in limbo, and therein lies the mystery: why did Kahne and Hendrick make the big announcement about 2012 when the 2010 season is barely getting started?

I covered driver/team breakups for 40 years and I never saw one that was totally amicable. Most of them created hard feelings ranging from personal snits to bitter rancor.

You’ll never get anyone at Petty Motorsports to admit it, of course, but you can bet that folks there aren’t happy over the way all this has transpired – certainly not with the timing. Kasey has his bags packed but his train doesn’t leave for seven months.

That’s a long time to stand waiting at the station.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 24 2010
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