Kasey Kahne's in a no-win situation

10/20/2010 - NASCAR

Divorce never is easy. It rarely ends well, whether it's a husband and wife or a driver and a race team.

Such is the case with Kasey Kahne as he ends his relationship with Richard Petty Motorsports. Things got ugly last weekend when Kahne took some pot shots at RPM and claimed an unnamed RPM official fired back.

Kahne criticized his equipment after a brake failure, and added that an RPM official told him he needed to start doing his part.

J.J. Yeley finished the race Saturday night at Charlotte in the No. 9 Ford after Kahne, who wasn't feeling well, reportedly threw up in the garage area. Someone else getting in the car brought even more controversy to the night.

But there's no reason to take sides and there's no one to blame. This type of thing is the norm, not the exception, for lame-duck situations in NASCAR. Feelings get hurt and people say things they later regret. It's human nature.

Kahne signed a deal with Hendrick Motorsports in April. After Kahne announced he was leaving, team co-owner Foster Gillett made a point to say how they would do everything possible to finish out the year on a positive note.

"We are focused more on what we can do while we have him," Gillett said then of Kahne. "A lot of teams would take a 30-race contract with Kasey. He's one of the best guys in the sport and we are honored to have him.

"I know what a gentleman Kasey is. He's a quality person and he has great ability as a race car driver. If you give him great equipment he'll go win, and I believe we have a championship-caliber team in the 9. I know Kasey will do his best to uphold all his commitments."

And he has, but it's hard to make a long breakup go smoothly. This is like a husband and wife living in the same house for six months waiting for a divorce to be final.

Maybe the best solution for everyone involved is to cut ties now before the end of the season. Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis could move on to their interim home at Team Red Bull and prepare for 2011.

The problem is the man driving the No. 9 Ford next year, Marcos Ambrose, also is a lame duck at JTG/Daugherty Racing. Things have gone a little smoother for Ambrose and the No. 47 Toyota team, but he still ranks eight spots worse than he did a year ago.

To make the early move work for everyone, Ambrose would need to leave the 47 car and Bobby Labonte, who is replacing him next year, could step in.

But that's a lot of dominoes to fall into place. It's complicated and would require a lot of sponsors to sign off on it.

If so, great. If not, everyone will have to call a truce and make the best of a bad situation for five more weeks.

Money talks



Jamie McMurray became the first non-Chaser to win a Chase race since, well Jamie McMurray.

In fact, McMurray is the only non-Chaser to win a Chase race in the past three years. Greg Biffle won at Kansas Speedway on Sept. 30, 2007.

McMurray won last year in the Talladega Chase race, the last non-Chaser to win in the playoff until his victory Saturday night at Charlotte.

Thirty of the past 32 Chase races were won by Chase drivers. McMurray is the only non-Chaser to crash the party, so to speak.

And he's laughing all the way to the bank. Thanks to his victories this year in the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, McMurray is second in earnings this season at $6.28 million, only $90,000 behind Jimmie Johnson.

C'mon, partner

Let me get this straight: John Henry, who indirectly is a NASCAR partner with the Gillett family, goes to court and completes a forced takeover of the Liverpool, England, soccer club, which the Gilletts co-owned with former Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

If I'm George or Foster Gillett, I'm not too happy about that situation. Business is business, but that's not what I call being a friendly partner.

Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, also is the co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing with Jack Roush. RFR has a working relationship with Richard Petty Motorsports, which the Gilletts own. Both RFR and RPM are Ford teams that share information and use the same engine program.

Henry really is just a financial partner of Roush's team and has little involvement with the day-to-day operation in NASCAR. And Henry's interest in the Liverpool team has nothing to do with the NASCAR program.

Nevertheless, it doesn't exactly make for a cheery atmosphere when the partner of the man the Gilletts work with in NASCAR muscles you out of another venture.

Tough test for Danica

Danica Patrick had a career-best finish Saturday with her 21st-place showing in the Nationwide event at Charlotte. Not bad, but I'd be more impressed if she finished on the lead lap. She was two laps down.

Look for Patrick to struggle this weekend in the race at Gateway. It's a tricky track with an unusual egg shape, and a place where she never has raced.

A good showing Saturday would be a clear indication that Patrick is improving.

Byrd will be missed

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in racing more respected and well-liked than Jeff Byrd, the president of Bristol Motor Speedway who passed away Sunday after a long battle with cancer. He was 60.

Byrd never was the type of guy to bring attention to himself. He did his job passionately, but quietly. And he did it exceptionally well, helping make Bristol one of the prestigious sports facilities in the country.

"I have a lot of personal admiration for Jeff and the way he helped so many, including myself," said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Jeff was an integral part of our sport's explosive growth, first at Winston on its marketing team and then at Bristol.

"He worked in unison with Bruton [Smith, Speedway Motorsports chairman] to build Bristol Motor Speedway into an icon and one of the most recognizable brands of any sports venue in the country. We will miss his physical presence, but his legacy will be with us forever."

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.