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Woody: The Kahne Train Wreck Was Inevitable

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 26 2010

Not too many people emerged from the Kasey Kahne saga looking like champions. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

In other sports it’s called “tampering” and it carries stiff penalties.

One team isn’t allowed to try to lure away a member of another team who is under contract, especially while the season is under way.

Maybe NASCAR needs to consider a similar rule in the wake of the turmoil created by Hendrick Motorsports. The season-long debacle was climaxed last week by the bailout of Kasey Kahne from Richard Petty Motorsports with five races left in the season.

The amazing thing is that Kahne lasted as long as he did at Petty.

The relationship was doomed when, back in the spring, he announced he was leaving RPM to join Hendrick Motorsports – in 2012! His ride wouldn’t be ready until then unless Mark Martin could be nudged out the back door, and Mark made it clear he wouldn’t let that happen.

The obvious question was what would Kasey do next year? Twiddle his thumbs?

When asked, he shrugged and said he didn’t know.

How’s that for crushing a team’s morale? Its driver is so anxious to leave that he takes a job with another team two years down the road, not knowing what he’ll do until then.

Since then it has been announced that Kahne will be put on ice next season at Red Bull Racing while waiting for the Hendrick ride in 2012.

It was dubious from the start that being a lame-duck driver wouldn’t work. And it didn’t. The situation boiled over a couple of weeks ago at Charlotte when Kasey said someone on the team suggested he wasn’t trying. After he crashed – a crash he blamed on his team’s poor preparation – Kahne stormed off and abandoned his repaired car.

With the relationship – unlike Kasey’s car – damaged beyond repair, they decided to split. Kahne joined Red Bull for the season wrap-up while Aric Almirola will mop up at RPM. The switch went into effect last Sunday at Martinsville and there are four to go, heading into Talladega this weekend.

Kahne is a talented racer who has – or had – a bright future in the sport. How much this fiasco will ding his image or disrupt his career remains to be seen. Meanwhile RPM is left in tatters. The organization was already struggling, and having to deal with the Kahne mutiny destroyed what chance it might have had at a decent season.

And it was all unnecessary.

Nobody can fault Rick Hendrick for wanting to add a bright young talent like Kahne to his stable of superstars, and nobody can fault Kasey for wanting to join the best operation in NASCAR.

The fault was their terrible timing. Since Kahne can’t join Hendrick until 2012, why make the announcement early in 2010 and create such havoc? It spoiled the season for both Kasey and RPM and it made Hendrick appear greedy and meddlesome. Mark Martin was even drawn into the morass by an absurd suggestion that he step aside for Kasey next year. It was a lose-lose situation for everybody involved.

That’s why you don’t tamper with another team’s players.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 26 2010
5 Comments

5 Comments »

  • Eric says:

    Larry, I believe you are missing some history to the story. The way I heard it, Kahne was signed to ford when Evernham hired Kahne to drive in the cup series. Ford then sued Kahne for breaching the contract. This left a bad taste in Kahne’s mouth. Then with all the shuffling around, Kahne ends up driving a Ford. I think Kahne was going out the door, whether Hendrick was involved or not. Of course, I have no facts to back up my suggestions. But, I am not a sports writer either. I would love to read a story with the actual facts of the situation, instead of who is to blame.

  • Sarah says:

    You all seem to forget that THEY DIDNT ANNOUNCE IT. Marty Smith leaked it! They werent going to announce ANYTHING until the 2011 plans were ironed out… Red Bull wasnt announced until July or August right? Kasey almost made the chase so its not like he gave up on his team. Notice the car started having multiple issues as soon as Kasey didnt make the chase. THEY gave up on HIM. If he made the chase, we wouldnt be having this discussion.

  • Pete says:

    Well the problem was his contract was up at the end of 2011. He needed to go somewhere, he was tired of the uncertanity at GEM then RPM. AJ is not trying to get his team any more motivate this year as Kahne was doing last year at the same time. Everyone knew hendrick was going to have a seat available in 2012 even Kurt Busch SO if Kahne had any hopes of going to Hendrick he needed to sign this year. Who would give a 1 year contract? Whole problem was the news leaked early by Marty Smith. But Richard Petty did thank Kahne for giving him plenty of notice to find sponsers and another driver.

  • Brenda says:

    Well Mr. Woody, that was not Kasey or Mr. Hendricks fault that the signing leaked out, but to play fair here Mr. Hendricks was not the only one at that time of the year that was in disucussions with Kasey, as there was several owners trying to sign him. So don’t blame it all on Mr. Hendricks, and blame it own the media for breaking the story so early.

  • Terry says:

    Welcome to the new NASCAR…..