The Frontstretch: Who Gave Up on Whom? In the End, Kahne Did the Wrong Thing by Amy Henderson -- Friday October 22, 2010

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Who Gave Up on Whom? In the End, Kahne Did the Wrong Thing

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday October 22, 2010


Editor’s Note: For the latest timeline on the Kasey Kahne saga, please check out our Breaking News section by clicking here to find out the future of RPM, how we got to this point, and so much more.

Who quit on whom?

That was the question around NASCAR Nation this week after Kasey Kahne’s early departure from his No. 9 after he spun in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500, and it certainly does bring up an interesting follow-up: who gave up first?

Kahne said he was sick, but he was well enough to blast his crew on the radio and to run a 5K race the next morning. Perhaps the most incriminating statement, though, was that if the car had been better, he’d have stayed in it.

That’s not sick, that’s quitting.

Even though Kasey Kahne and his RPM team were planning to go their separate ways after this season, giving up and leaving the track at Charlotte because the car wasn’t good enough for him was just unacceptable.

A team member accused Kahne of lying down during the race; that is, not putting forth the best effort. Kahne fired back, saying that the team has given him subpar cars since he announced his departure from Richard Petty Motorsports effective at the end of this season. He claimed that the team is using bad brake fluid in his cars and that they won’t listen to him.

Who’s right?

In the end, it’s probably a little of both, but given the big picture, more of it falls squarely on Kahne’s shoulders. After all, he quit first. With his announcement that he will leave RPM at the end of the season for Red Bull Racing, a move that will eventually land him at juggernaut Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, Kahne basically told his team they weren’t good enough anymore.

Certainly, if reports that RPM owes Kahne money are true, that makes his frustration understandable. Editor’s Note: Kahne said he was paid “up to date” by RPM as of this morning. However, I can’t help but think of A.J. Allmendinger, who not only has remained loyal to the team for two years, but who also went without pay for a good chunk of that so the money could be funneled into his race team instead. I can’t help but wonder why, if RPM breached Kahne’s contract by not paying him, why the driver chose to stick around instead of moving over to Red Bull as soon as that deal was announced. After all, given that Reed Sorenson is a fill-in driver for the injured Brian Vickers, who will be back in January, it makes sense that the team would have gladly jumped at the chance to have three or four months to work toward 2011. If Kahne wasn’t getting paid, why did he stick around and badmouth his team, all of whom are likely going to be out of work in a couple of weeks and weren’t pulling in the percentage of winnings that Kahne was, either? Why not just step away, sue for the money, and be done with it? Why wait until Saturday and then throw the team under the bus for something they had no control over? George Gillett was the one not paying Kahne, not his crew.

I’m all for bettering your career, and Kahne did just that. But the timing of his announcement (and he announced the Hendrick move first, meaning he made the statement nearly two years before it actually happens) was poor. If Kahne expected the best of everything from RPM, he should have delayed the announcement until much later. Had the news been kept under wraps, it’s entirely likely that the organization’s main focus would have been the flagship No. 9.

No amount of advice from others could help Kenny Francis (left) push his team to give 110 percent towards a driver who was bolting RPM after the season.

Instead, Kahne made his bed, and the team’s focus understandably shifted elsewhere – to the No. 43, a former icon of the sport currently driven by Allmendinger. It’s kind of a no-brainer, really, to put the effort into the team that is your best hope and the driver who has been loyal to winning in your machine. Once Kahne quit first, the team couldn’t quit on the others who would still help them survive.

Yet if the driver is to be believed, his team slipped below just putting more effort into the No. 43. They’ve practically sunk to sabotage, the latest accusation from Kahne surrounding brake issues he says were preventable. He claims it’s the brake fluid his team uses, but it’s the same product used by his three teammates without incident, which leaves either the team’s setups or Kahne’s driving to blame for the failures. If the team did give up on Kahne, I still don’t buy that they would ever do anything intentionally to hurt him. However, if they’re really mailing it in to the point of being so careless that they put the driver’s safety in jeopardy… well, let’s just leave it at they don’t deserve a role on any team in the sport. There is zero excuse for that kind of negligence.

On the other hand, what incentive does the race team really have for giving up at this point? First of all, it’s unlikely that crew chief Kenny Francis, who is presumably still on Kahne’s good side, since he will accompany Kahne to Red Bull and Hendrick, would put up with anything blatantly dangerous from the team he commands. It’s even a stretch to imagine that he’d tolerate laziness at any level. Not only that, but the team will be back next year with Marcos Ambrose behind the wheel, and in a sport where teams learn about the equipment literally every week, why would they want to get behind the other teams before Daytona? So while they may be apathetic about Kahne, it’s more likely that the failures are due to trying new things, either to help the team get ready for 2011 or to help the RPM organization as a whole.

Sure, it’s no fun to be the R & D guy, but what did Kahne expect after he decided to bail? He told his team with his announcement that they weren’t good enough for the likes of him. The team as a whole simply has more to gain by working to help the guy who wants to be there. That’s really not a personal knock on Kahne in itself, but Kahne apparently made it one, to the point where the team accused him of mailing it in for most of the summer.

Fast forward to Saturday, though, and Kahne was the one who is at fault. While it’s never wise to burn bridges, you also have to wonder what Rick Hendrick thought of Kahne’s exit and excuse. One of Hendrick’s drivers at the time, Kyle Busch, did the same thing at Texas a couple of years ago when his car was wrecked. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was there to take over, and when Earnhardt joined Hendrick Motorsports the following year, it was ultimately at Busch’s expense. That was probably not the deciding factor, but you have to wonder if it played a role. It took two months from “no room at the inn” to transforming the ultra-talented Busch into the odd man out, a move that happened despite him putting up better numbers than Casey Mears – the ultimate team player during his tenure.

Yet Saturday night really boils down to Kahne’s matter-of-fact statement; if the car was better, he might have stayed in. But it wasn’t, so he quit. Compare that to Kevin Conway’s run in the Coca-Cola 600 this May, where he was ill throughout the race – physically sick to his stomach in a car far worse than Kahne’s on any scale – and still stayed in the seat for 600 miles. Say what you want about Conway’s talent, but you can’t doubt his dedication.

What Kahne showed on Saturday was not. And at the root of it all, Kahne gave up first. I’m not so sure J.J. Yeley shouldn’t have been given the reins for the rest of the year after that. Yeley stepping in for Kahne also makes you wonder, would the team have put a random driver in an unsafe car, leaving him at risk of getting injured? Would Yeley have even taken that chance? I doubt it.

Kasey Kahne essentially gave up on his team when he inked the deal at Hendrick Motorsports. His team may have become apathetic toward the driver, but really, who’s to blame for that? They should have given their best effort, but they didn’t. The crew chief, who is also leaving, should not have allowed it – but he did. The driver could have gotten behind his team and his teammates for his remaining time at RPM, but he didn’t, either. So in the end, nobody held up their end of the bargain – it’s just that the driver dropped his end first.

Contact Amy Henderson

Friday on the Frontstretch:
Kenny Wallace Driver Diary: Across The Country And Back
Gateway Disappearance A Sign Of The NASCAR Times
Driven To The Past: Getting Detroit’s Attention…
Tearing Apart the Trucks: Bodine the Unbeatable?

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Racing to the Point: NASCAR Has Its Own Heartbreak Kid
Beyond the Cockpit: Brittany Force, the Fastest Force
Voices from the Cheap Seats: Advertising for Dummies
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Off Week-Richmond Edition
Couch Potato Tuesday: Picking The Best IndyCar On-Air Personalities


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Stephen HOOD
10/22/2010 07:04 AM

Doesn’t RPM have a commitment to its sponsor to provide top flight equipment to the sponsor’s driver? I can understand the inner turmoil of a lame duck driving team. I’ve been a lame duck at several jobs in the past, and its best to get on out the door quickly unless you’re retiring. But, racing teams have sponsors who are paying a lot of money to put a good product on the track.

Kahne’s stats following his Hendrick announcement are telling. It does seem that the emphasis shifted to the #43. Yet, was Kahne the better driver or was Bud paying the freight? And, if Bud was paying the freight, why didn’t Kahne continue to get the best equipment?

I actually think Kahne should be sainted for putting up with the BS at Evernham Motorsports; Evernham/Crocker Motorsports; Gillette Evernham Motorsports; and, now, RIchard Petty Motorsports with Rousch Fenway. The fact that Kahne has stuck with this bumbling troop without having a breakdown before now actually speaks to his character and commitment to racing. I wonder what AJ and Marcos are thinking as they enter Martinsville this weekend. Who is going to come to the rescue and salvage RPM now? Will NASCAR allow a bailout via Rousch Fenway or are we about the witness the complete collapse of RPM?

Now that more information has come to light about the situation at RPM, I think Kahne’s actions last Saturday are well within the boundaries. AJ Allmendinger’s willingness to go unpaid speaks more to his desperation as a third tier talent than his commitment to stock car racing. Again, Kahne and his sponsor were paying the freight.

10/22/2010 08:15 AM

It’s a sad day when Petty Enterprises is poised to collapse. Ultimately, I blame NASCAR and Brian France. The marketing genius (not) that has driven the sport into the ground. We have carpetbaggers running Petty Enterprises. There’s no meat left on the bone, it’s been picked clean. Don’t mind the hard working folks getting ready to lose their jobs. It’s the price of doing business in today’s NASCAR. Do you think King Richard is ashamed that he made a deal with the devil? Brian France and George Gillett could care less about the history of NASCAR and those that made this a once great sport. That’s a damn shame.

Ghost of Curtis Turner
10/22/2010 08:45 AM

Dear Randy,
Why the hatred? if this website makes you so mad why do you even respond? If the writing is so terrible why do you keep reading?
Wow, Matt is correct your either in Middle School or you are Brian France.

What makes me think your in Middle School and not Brian France is Brain France wouldn’t be able to keep his attention span on the articles this long.

Do us all a favor, go away.
Just leave, stop writing to Matt who you obviously have a crush on. Go talk to your strong willed Mother and weak never at home Father. When ever they get home tonight and ask them to send you to counseling.
You have a lot of unresolved issues in your life that need to be addressed quickly before you either snap and kill one of your class mates, or end up as a transsexual hooker on the streets and dead of a heroin overdose.
Or even worse you drive your BMW in to a Palm tree after you drop your can of coke.
Perhaps you were not held enough as a little baby or maybe your mother beats your father in front of you. But please seek help now before it’s to late.

10/22/2010 08:55 AM

KK comes across as a whiney, I am entitled to everything little poser. Wow. he sounds like a lot like Kryle Busch, except Kryle wins races and KK doesn’t. I wonder if HMS realizes what they are getting in 2012. His stats sure aren’t any better than JR and since there is usually only one R&D car, how will KK react if Jr finally gets to race a real race car, and Kasey drives the R&D car. Whine and cry? Throw his crew under the bus? Should be interesting. At least he should be sure of a steady paycheck, unless JR bolts to another team and takes all his teeshirt sales with him. Wonder if HMS would be the powerhouse they are without JR’s teeshirt money?

Mary Grubbs
10/22/2010 09:03 AM

Amy you wrote one large story on nothing but a guessing game. I understand that as of today there have been no official announcements from either side on the demise of RPM or Kayne, your story just doesn’t hold water, so before sitting in judgment against the driver as you have done, I choose to wait and see who really did what , when, where, why and to who, before making my call. But as I recall RPM has been having financial problems , that were reported since April, so this is only a guess, but my guess is Kasey has done the right thing in this terrible situation. We will see soon enough won’t we???

10/22/2010 10:09 AM

KK is a whiney, no talent, little punk. I’m glad Hendick has to put up with him after next year. They deserve each other. I hope RPM can somehow come out of this mess with some dignity that the Petty family so rightfully deserves.

10/22/2010 10:17 AM

I think Kasey is a good guy, but we all have our breaking point. I don’t think he would have ever re-uped with this team a couple of years ago if he knew Evernham was going to collapse and be turned into RPM. Should he have gotten back in the car yes, but what’s the point of repairing that car at this time of the season? The 9 isn’t in the Chase, and not near the top-35 cut off. This feels like a situation that’s been building for months if not a year or more. Remember Kasey did get this team 2 wins last year.

10/22/2010 10:52 AM


How long would you keep writing “Holding a Pretty Wheel” if your paycheck bounced? What if they never even showed up? Would you forgo your financial compensation, for the good of FrontStretch? Something tells me that your mortgage, car payments, various bills, and feeding the kids might win out fairly rapidly. And your life isn’t even in danger while you are doing your job.
IF the reports are true, then you have a team that is circling the toilet. They can’t pay their bills. They can’t pay their employees. They put inferior equipment on their cars. The cars are consistently inconsistent. And Kasey Kahne has had brake failures of some sort in 3 of the last 4 weeks.
And yet, Amy, you find Kasey Kahne “more responsible” for the ugly mess which has developed. How much is someone supposed to give for RPM? Everyone wants to say that you do what “The King” tells you. Then they want to claim that it’s not “The King’s” team. Well, which is it?
The point is, Petty Enterprises went bankrupt and “King Richard” sold his name off to Gillette. But whether you are discussing PE or RPM the only history available is sub-standard equipment going back as far as 1985, and destroying driver’s careers since 1993.
Finally, of course, AJ stuck it out, and stayed loyal, there aren’t a lot of car owners lining up to hire him. What other choice did he have?

10/22/2010 12:05 PM

RPM quit on Kasey, especially with the latest revelations that they won’t run past Martinsville, Roush has stopped sending equipment & in some cases repossessing it, and the Gilletts are $12 million in the hole. That’s not Kasey’s fault…that’s the Gilletts. I imagine that Richard Petty is regretting the day he merged with that team. It was a bad idea to switch to Ford & it’s shown. Ford’s barely won a race this year & Kasey HAS had subpar equipment. Who can blame him for being mad? He saw the writing on the wall when he signed with Hendrick & RPM stabbed him in the back, despite Kasey performing well in the middle of the year. And remember, Kasey isn’t the only driver leaving…3 of the 4 are. People may say that Kasey’s inconsistent, but keep in mind that he’s the ONLY winning driver on that team. None of the others has won a race besides Sadler & he wasn’t with Evernham at that time. George Gillett ran the team that Ray built into the ground & now he & Foster have dragged Richard Petty through this. Say goodbye to Richard’s participation in the sport.

phil h
10/22/2010 12:25 PM

Kasey Kahne just grab your boyfriend and he’ll make it all better

10/22/2010 12:25 PM

What about Budweiser? How are they taking this? No doubt RPM’s management leaves something to be desired, but I would think the sponsor would have juice. Kind of funny after swithing to Ford they still stunk. Dodge has 30% of their cars in the chase… who’s laughing now?

10/22/2010 12:34 PM

Why is it everything you write a slam against Kahne? I get it that you must despise the guy but come on the stories coming out on the details of this deal with RPM make his choice the right one.

10/22/2010 12:41 PM

Hey, I’m still of the notion that you NEVER quit on your team no matter what. However it’s pretty clear there’s a lot more to the story and plenty of blame to be shared.

I feel sorry for the author of this piece because she’s put so many blind assumptions into it that it’s proving the old adage of what happens when one assumes. She’s coming off as a donkey’s behind and that’s a shame.

But the bottom line is we NASCAR fans are a bunch of mushrooms. We’re kept in the dark and fed a whole lot of manure. Thanks to the PR spin machine we’re left to believe our assumptions are correct…when in reality we’re ignorant mules too.

10/22/2010 12:41 PM

Up until yesterday, I was hard on Kasey Kahne for being a quitter. Now, I’m surprised he waited this long. I wouldn’t have.

Kevin in SoCal
10/22/2010 01:13 PM

Ghost of Curtis Turner wrote: “Wow, Matt is correct your either in Middle School or you are Brian France. What makes me think your in Middle School and not Brian France is Brain France wouldn’t be able to keep his attention span on the articles this long.”

I learned before middle school the difference between your and you’re. Perhaps you should use a better cleaner on that glass house of yours?

Yankeegranny wrote: “Wonder if HMS would be the powerhouse they are without JR’s teeshirt money?”

HMS was winning races and championships well before Dale Jr showed up to ride around and collect a paycheck to fund his bar. Sad but true.

No Spin Gerry
10/22/2010 02:47 PM

You have never been stiffed by bad person or company

10/22/2010 03:24 PM

Ah come on Amy. Would you drive a car down the road with no brakes? Now think about doing 180. I wouldn’t drive a go kart with no brakes. And the rumor mill is saying he wasn’t even current on his paycheck. Why can’t we wait for all the facts before grilling him or even RPM?

10/22/2010 03:47 PM

Kahne laid down last year when RPM announced they were switching to Ford. Simple as that. Is anyone truly surprised that he announced he was leaving Richard to drive for “Mr. Hendrick”?

Adios, turd nugget…

10/22/2010 03:51 PM

In every editorial slamming KK, they talk about how he ran a 5k the next morning. This, somehow is evidence that he’s not sick.


Dude ran it in like 22 minutes, which for an in-shape, young fella, is a joke. Plus, I think this speaks more to his character that even though he was ticked, and not feeling well, he still had time for charitable events.

10/22/2010 04:28 PM

I’ve figured out who RandyGoldman is. It’s DansMom using another name. Must be kin of Brain Fart.

10/22/2010 07:35 PM

Just a couple of things here that you mention that need clarification.

Kasey did not announce he had signed with Hendrick until it was leaked. You find the source yet? You write as though Kasey’s team (fab guys, pit road guy’s etc.) buy the parts and pieces they put on the car. They can only install the parts and pieces provided to them. I don’t believe Kasey feels these team members were the ones that were not giving full effort. There are many things, other than brake fluid alone, that could cause the brakes to fail. For instance, it could be a combination of the fluid and the one R&D pump. Maybe it has different seals in it and a different fluid may not destroy those seals (not the teams fault if management refuses to try another fluid in the R&D pump). Just a thought……..

You compare 2 years that AJ has been at RPM to the many years put in that team and it’s struggles by Kasey and draw from that that AJ is the more loyal employee?. Believe me on this, if RPM survives into next year and AJ struggles at all, you will hear him set a worlds record volume level for whining.

There are a few other things that deserve a comment but I’ll let you look over your article and see what else you may have assumed that deserve a second thought…

10/22/2010 08:23 PM

Seems like the perfect storm. Petty will be no more past this week end, Kahne is already sitting in a Red Bull car. Lord knows what Roush’s future holds either.

10/22/2010 10:29 PM

YOu need to do more one on one with the people that worked at Rpm . Then you will understand how gillet lies to people all the time.

10/22/2010 11:13 PM

Sorry Amy but you are out to lunch on this one.

10/23/2010 12:29 AM

“They’ve practically sunk to sabotage, the latest accusation from Kahne surrounding brake issues he says were preventable. He claims it’s the brake fluid his team uses, but it’s the same product used by his three teammates without incident, which leaves either the team’s setups or Kahne’s driving to blame for the failures”.Hmm, I recall two other RPM drivers having brake problems in recent weeks.

10/23/2010 09:47 AM

Um, Amy, you’re slamming Kasey for the timing of the announcement of his move to HMS? If you’ll recall, the media forced their hand on that. But I’m sure you would have preferred an entire year of “no comment” from Kasey, instead of getting it out in the open and letting everyone stop the speculation?


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.