Rick Hendrick details Kasey Kahne deal
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The owner of Hendrick Motorsports says he had four legitimate options for Kasey Kahne in 2011, but Red Bull Racing made the most sense because sponsorship wasn't an issue.
"Three of them wanted to start a new team and two of them had plans beyond to keep going,'' Rick Hendrick said before Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. "A couple wanted me to make sure I could help them with the sponsors because the sponsor was going to have to stay. Well, I couldn't control that.
"The more I thought about it, [Red Bull is] a top-flight team with a sponsor that is OK with a one-year deal. The sponsorship saying they are going to be with the guy for a year is a plus.''
Kahne will spend one year at Red Bull Racing 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.
Hendrick still is looking for sponsorship to fill out the No. 5 car of Martin that has GoDaddy.com as the primary sponsor and the No. 24 of Jeff Gordon that has DuPont looking to cut back its program.
"Me to put a guy over there with a sponsor, I can't do that,'' Hendrick said. "Sponsors are hard enough to come by. It worked out it was a good deal for everybody.''
Talks with Red Bull Racing general manager Jay Frye got serious two weeks ago. The organization has three options, to put Kahne in the No. 83 if Brian Vickers does not come back from blood clots, to put him in the No. 82 driven by Scott Speed or to start a third team.
Vickers has been taking blood thinners to deal with his condition that sidelined him in May. It could be several months before there is enough medical knowledge to make a decision on next year.
Speed has a year remaining on his contract, but there are escape clauses based on performance that would allow the team to make a switch.
Speed entered Sunday's race 27th in points, which sources said puts him outside the required performance.
Starting a third team is the most unlikely scenario because sponsorship would have to be found. The 82 and 83 are sponsored by Red Bull.
"Jay and I had talked earlier,'' Hendrick said. "I don't think he had decided if they were going to replace a driver. Then he mentioned it.''
Hendrick said there is no issue that Red Bull Racing fields Toyotas and HMS fields Chevrolets. He said Kahne's deal is exclusive with Red Bull and that he doesn't have to pay the driver or the organization.
"It's their deal,'' Hendrick said.
He added there were no stipulations that Red Bull would move to Chevrolet and lease engines or cars from HMS in 2012 once its deal with Toyota ends.
"None. Zero. None,'' Hendrick said. "Clean cut.''
Hendrick said the biggest regret is the deal took so long to finalize, causing speculation that Kahne might replace Martin in the No. 5 this year instead of 2012 as was announced when Kahne signed earlier this year.
"I feel bad it ... screwed Mark up a little bit,'' Hendrick said. "I didn't anticipate everybody trying to figure it out.''
Martin admitted on Friday that speculation he might move to another organization instead of Kahne, who is leaving the No. 9 of Richard Petty Motorsports after this season, had a negative impact. He apologized for negative comments he made about the media in the past month.
"That came from the heart and not from the head,'' Martin said. "It was grinding on me and I apologize for what I said and wish I hadn't said what I said.''
Martin moved into the 12th and final spot for the Chase last weekend at Watkins Glen.
"As much as we would like it not to be, now that it's behind us it does feel a little lighter,'' Martin said. "Anyway, we're moving forward now.''
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.