Kasey Kahne to drive No. 83
CONCORD, N.C. -- Kasey Kahne will drive the No. 83 at Red Bull Racing for the final five races after being released by Richard Petty Motorsports on Wednesday night. An announcement was made Thursday.
"With our agreement only being for one year, there is a great sense of urgency to get started on 2011," Jay Frye, Red Bull Racing Team's vice president and general manager, said in a statement. "With Kasey coming earlier than planned, we are excited to have a five-race head start."
Aric Almirola will replace Kahne in the No. 9 at RPM for this weekend's race at Martinsville. No plans were announced for the remaining four races, but a source said Kahne's release could pave the way for JTG Daugherty's Marcos Ambrose to move into the car that he will drive full-time next season.
That would open the door for Bobby Labonte to replace Ambrose in the No. 47 he will drive next season.
Sources said there were talks before Kahne's release about moving Ambrose into the No. 9 and Labonte into the No. 47, but Kahne's sponsorship obligation with Budweiser was a holdup.
JTG Daugherty officials met Thursday morning and asked Ambrose to honor his commitment for the rest of the season and Ambrose agreed.
Kahne announced earlier in the year he will drive for Red Bull Racing in 2011 before moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.
"This matter was between driver and team," a Budweiser spokesperson said Thursday. "Though it marks a premature end to our on-track relationship with Kasey, the Budweiser car is a fixture in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and we look forward to finishing out the season with another driver behind the wheel."
Crew chief Kenny Francis, who will move with Kahne to Red Bull next season, told ESPN.com he will be with Almirola this weekend and he expects to remain with the team through the end of the season.
"If they want me I will be there," Francis said.
Francis would not elaborate on why Kahne was released, saying it had been in the works all day.
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"I don't want to get into any of that," Francis said. "I'll do whatever they want me to do. I won't rock the boat. All that stuff is way above me."
Kahne was disgruntled after Saturday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in which his brakes failed for the third time this season and second time in three races, leading to a wreck with Sam Hornish Jr.
After repairs Kahne refused to return to the race, saying he was ill. J.J. Yeley finished.
Kahne said an RPM official told him after the race that, "I needed to start doing my part."
"I'm not going to say names, but I was told that I need to start doing my part," Kahne told reporters after his 5K fundraising run on Sunday. "I can't control the issues I've had this year. I don't know how many parts I've broke. If I really thought about it, I could come up with all kinds of stuff. You can't control that as a driver. I'm doing my part. I just need the car. I work as hard as anybody out there."
Francis said he was unaware if Kahne's decision not to return to the car had anything to do with the dismissal.
"We uncovered some stuff this week," Francis said of the problems the car had. "We found a problem with one of the master cylinders. It was just unfortunate that it happened. I don't know if that had anything do with what's happened."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.