Kasey Kahne is out at Richard Petty Motorsports effective immediately, the team announced in a late-night press release shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Kahne, who had criticized RPM after a brake failure at Charlotte, is now free to join Red Bull Racing (his home for 2011) – perhaps as soon as Martinsville (UPDATE, noon Thursday: Red Bull Racing says Kahne will drive for the team starting at Martinsville).
Aric Almirola, who had been scheduled to drive for Red Bull this weekend, will now drive the No. 9 car for RPM, the team said. RPM said its driver plans beyond Martinsville were uncertain.
UPDATE: Two sources told SB Nation that as of Wednesday night, RPM had not received cars from Roush Fenway Racing to continue past Martinsville. A source said RPM was behind on its payments to Roush.
The Red Bull move will likely be welcomed by Kahne, who wanted to leave RPM and get a start on next season anyway. It had become clear he had lost support at RPM, his home since the start of his Cup career (Kahne had stayed on through all the various acquisitions and name changes).
Kahne's domino could mean others fall as well.
With Kahne leaving his RPM seat open, it's worth wondering whether Marcos Ambrose could move to the No. 9 before the end of the season. Ambrose has already signed to drive for RPM next year, along with AJ Allmendinger.
And if Ambrose leaves early, does that mean Bobby Labonte could move to JTG Daugherty Racing with a few weeks remaining in the season? Labonte announced in July he would move to JTG Daugherty in 2011.
RPM didn't offer any word on the future of Kahne's longtime crew chief Kenny Francis, who is also moving to Red Bull next year, but ESPN.com's David Newton reported Francis is staying at RPM for the balance of 2010.