Could Earnhardt and Kahne play musical cars in 2011?
2010 Texas NSCS postqualify Earnhardt, Kahne, Biffle (4/16/2010) | Chris Graythen/Getty Images Via nascarmedia.com.
Since Kasey Kahne announced his move from the Richard Petty lead RPM race team to Rick Hendrick's organization for the 2012 season the Internet has been buzzing about Kahne's plans for 2011.
Rick Hendrick already has a 4 car team, the maximum amount one owner can have in NASCAR, and none of his drivers are planning on leaving either. Hendrick could possibly release one of his drivers at the end of the year to make room for Kahne, but let's be honest he's not going to release two of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Champs in Gordon and Johnson, nor is he going to release either perennial fan favourites Mark Martin, who is NASCAR's oldest weekly competitor in Sprint Cup, or reigning NASCAR fan favourite Dale Earnhardt Jr.
What this means is there's no room at the inn until Mark Martin fulfills his contract and leaves the 5 car at the end of 2011.
So where does this leave Kasey Kahne for the 2011 season? According to recent articles on various sites Kahne isn't too worried because in his new contract with Hendrick Motorsports it is up to Rick Hendrick to find him a ride in 2011 and Rick has stated that Kasey will be in a Chevy next year.
Most stories and speculations out there right now centre around Tony Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing team.
It is common knowledge with both fans and those in NASCAR that Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are already a 'team' as it were. Stewart-Haas uses Hendrick motors and gets technical support from the organization as well.
Tony Stewart has also said that he is looking to expand the operation of his team to include a third car in the future and until Kasey Kahne made his announcement this past week it has been widely thought that Stewart's third driver might be Kevin Harvick as he is in his last year under contract with Richard Childress Racing and thus far has not re-signed with the storied race team.
Being a former USAC Champion like Stewart and Stewart's other driver Ryan Newman Kahne would be a good fit at Stewart-Haas. Kahne also owns his own Sprint Car team like Stewart does.
I mean really what other driver would be a good fit for Stewart-Haas Racing?
The rumours and speculations about Kahne being at Stewart-Haas Racing make a whole lot of sense really. But still ... I'm not completely sold on it.
What gain is there really for Stewart in all of this? He starts a third team for one year only to give up his driver at the end of the year? Even if Hendrick himself pays for it all it is still a problem for Stewart to organize etc.
Stewart will either be stuck witha third team for 2012 with no driver or he won't even have a third team because the whole thing, crew chief and all, will be shipped over to Hendirck Motorsports. Either way it seems to be a large undertaking just to come out at best witha team with a sub-par driver, I mean who is he going to get to take Kahne's spot after he leaves?
One thing I've noticed about Tony Stewart over the years is that essentially he tells it like it is or he'll differ you to another time, but he will not lie about something. Look at when he did leave Joe Gibbs racing to form his own team and the rumours circulated about his possible involvement with Gene Haas, he never denied it he just differed his comment for later. Earlier this week he denied any knowledge of Kahne coming over on loan to Stewart-Haas Racing from Hendrick Motorsports. He flat out denied it.
Do you think that when Hendrick, Martin and Kahne were all talking back in September that Hendrick hadn't already started to formulate a plan about what to do with Kahne for 2011 and that Stewart would have already been consulted prior to his speaking to the media about it this week? Rick is a shrewd businessman and I guarantee you that he had something already set up for Kahne in 2011 when the announcement was made about Kahne's driving future at Hendrick Motorsports, whether Stewart is lying about it remains to be seen but I believe him when he says he knows nothing about it.
So where does this leave us now? Back to speculation, rumors and innuendo. So let me throw my theory out there too. I heard something on the radio the other day so now I'm going to run with it (the radio show is cited at the end of this article).
If Harvick does not sign with RCR then the 29 car is open. I'm sure Hendrick and Richard Childress could work out a driver loan of some sort to fill the seat, but instead of putting Kahne in the RCR #29 for a year why not throw Dale Jr in the RCR #3 and let Kahne or Martin drive the #88 while the other drives the #5.
Junior could bring his AMP/National Guard sponsorship with him too as I believe that Shell/Pennziol is in its last year with RCR as well.
It is the perfect time to put Junior in the black #3 car, as it will be the 10th anniversary of his father's death next year and they could run the whole season as a tribute to him. It is felt by most Dale Earnhardt fans that no one should ever drive the black #3 again but Dale Eanrhardt Junior, so why not now?
Everyone benefits by having Junior in the legendary RCR black #3 car.
RCR benefits by having the #3 car out there again with an Earnhardt behind the wheel. Merchandise sales alone would be in the millions.
Hendrick benefits because he is able to solve the Kahne issue while at the same time getting a share of the profits by loaning his driver to RCR for a year - I did say he was shrewd.
NASCAR and track owners benefit by having a renewed fan interest in the sport where people will come to the tracks to see that black #3 car on the track again. I know I'd go.
The fans benefit by getting what they want - an Earnhardt in the black #3.
Dale Jr benefits because he can finally get the #3 legacy monkey off of his back, and I'm sure the merchandise sales wouldn't hurt either.
DEI benefits monetarily due to the fact that there would have to be some sort of merchandise deal made to have both Jr and his Dad on shirts, hats, stickers, etc. Could this be why it is going to take 90 days for Hendrick to make an announcement, so they can get all of the merchandise deals on paper?
And finally the next driver of the #3 in 2012 (Austin Dillion?) will benefit because there will be no resentment towards him for driving the #3 before Junior did. Childress owns that number and he isn't going to sit on it forever without using it so this scenario allows a good transition to the next generation of #3 drivers at RCR.
This is a win/win/win/etc. for everyone, but will it happen?
They say that all rumours are founded on some shard of truth, and during his radio show this past week Charlie Turner from On Pit Row said that he heard something about Junior going to RCR on Twitter (Go here and view show 04/13/10 Hour 1 at the 17:50 mark) so maybe, just maybe, this Junior/RCR scenario might play out.
Just imagine 'what if'?