- Marty Smith, ESPN
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Kasey Kahne, the hottest potential free agent in NASCAR entering this season, has signed a multiyear agreement to join Hendrick Motorsports.
Hendrick Motorsports confirmed the deal in a news statement Wednesday morning.
"In Kasey, we saw an opportunity to cement a big piece of our future," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. "He possesses incredible talent and a tremendous dedication to his craft, and we know he'll be a great fit within our company.
Mark Martin will drive the No. 5 car through the 2011 season, with Kahne taking over in 2012.
Kahne's 2011 plans are still undecided.
"I've actually thought a lot about that but I'm not sure what I'm going to do next year," Kahne said after taking batting practice with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on Tuesday. "I've given it some thought though."
There is room for Martin and Kahne in the Hendrick family. Stewart Haas Racing receives chassis, engines and technical support from HMS. So Kahne could be housed there until Martin's contract is up.
Kahne, 30, is in the final year of his contract with Richard Petty Motorsports, and plans to finish the season in the No. 9 Ford, sources said. It is unknown whether Kahne's sponsor, Budweiser, will accompany him to HMS.
Mark Wright, vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing for Anheuser-Busch, Inc., said Budweiser is currently focused only on the current season with Kahne.
"There have been no discussions relative to our sponsorship as of yet. We look forward to having those at the appropriate time," Wright said.
RPM sent out a release acknowledging Kahne would not be renewing his contract after this season.
"Kasey is a very talented driver and I have enjoyed watching him race. We all wish him nothing but the best and hope he succeeds in anything he chooses to do," team owner Richard Petty said.
Marty Smith covers NASCAR for ESPN and ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
10dTom McKean, ESPN Stats & Information