Kasey Kahne signs 1-year deal
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kasey Kahne finally has a ride locked down for 2011, at Red Bull Racing, where he will spend one season before moving to Hendrick Motorsports.
Kahne signed on to replace Mark Martin in the No. 5 Chevrolet at Hendrick in 2012, and team owner Rick Hendrick had to find a place to keep his new driver for one season. After negotiating for more than three months with different teams, Hendrick put together a deal for Kahne to drive one of Red Bull's two Toyotas.
"This opportunity places me with an established, competitive team that has proven they can win races and make the Chase," Kahne said Tuesday. "The opportunity to drive for Red Bull Racing Team in 2011 is a great fit for me, both personally and professionally.
"It feels good to be able to finally put this to rest and focus my energy on finishing the season strong for the 9 team and our sponsors."
Hendrick was pleased to have a deal finally worked out. Although Hendrick said when he signed Kahne in April that he'd only put Kahne in a Chevrolet, he admitted to widening the search to other manufacturers last month in Indianapolis.
"The process went on longer than any of us anticipated, but I'm glad that we took our time to make sure it was right," Hendrick said Tuesday. "And although I'm not looking forward to racing against him next year, I'm comfortable knowing this is the best situation for Kasey."
Red Bull did not specify which of its cars Kahne will drive next year. The team fields Camrys for Brian Vickers and Scott Speed, but Vickers got out of the car in May to be treated for blood clots. He's insisted he'll be ready to drive by the start of 2011.
Speed, meanwhile, has been heavily invested in by Red Bull's Austria-based ownership, which selected him from a national driver search and groomed him for a Formula One career. When that flamed out, he was moved back to the U.S. and placed with its NASCAR team.
"This obviously all happened very quickly," Red Bull general manager Jay Frye said. "Over the next month, we will finalize the specific team details."
The Red Bull details unresolved, Kahne's signing at least puts to rest the constant speculation on whether he would replace Martin a year earlier than planned. The constant questions had openly irritated Martin, who last fall agreed to a two-year contract extension to drive the No. 5 through 2011.
He insisted from the moment Kahne's hiring was announced that he would complete that contract, but the uncertainty over Kahne's 2011 placement led to continued speculation.
"We're looking forward to another year with Mark Martin, one of the true class acts in racing, driving for Hendrick Motorsports," Hendrick said. "There aren't many things in this world I'd rather do than win a championship with him, and that will be our goal with the No. 5 team for the rest of this year and in 2011."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press