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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: When Life Deals You Lemons, Sign a Multi-Year Deal with Rick Hendrick

Lots to get to today. I think you know where we’re headed this week….

Q: This domino wasn’t supposed to fall this early! I guess the Silly Season is only going to get sillier this year more than ever. My question involves why Jack Roush didn’t lock Kasey [Kahne] up in the No. 6 for 2011. With the state of RPM and the underperformance of the No. 6, that seems like the one logical choice. What say you, Matt? – Lee Sporcic

A: Kahne wanted out of the Ford camp is my take. Sure, he would’ve been a great candidate for that seat, and I’d be shocked if UPS and Roush didn’t discuss such a move – possibly with Kasey – but Kahne could write his own ticket, and that ticket was a one-way ride out of Fordville. And hey, if the choice is yours, what better place to go than the most dominant motorsports team in all of America (or the world)?

Q: I’m guess[ing] Stewart-Haas Racing is the obvious spot for Kahne next year, right? Or is something going on that will surprise us? Also, is Bud signed with Kahne or tied to RPM? Thanks! – 9 Fan Soon to be a 5 Guy

A: Stewart-Haas Racing isn’t lending a full race-day pit crew to the No. 71 TRG Motorsports team just because Bobby Labonte is such a swell guy. Yeah, I’d be floored if Kasey didn’t end up at SHR next year and then on the varsity squad in 2012.

As for Budweiser, it’s my understanding that its contract with Richard Petty Motorsports is up at the end of this season as well, but I’m not sold that the King of Beers will follow Kahne. Not that Anheuser-Busch wants out of the Kahne business… my fear is it wants out of the NASCAR business.

We’ll see how that hunch plays out, but remember, Budweiser’s owner doesn’t live in St. Louis anymore. The headquarters are in Brussels, where they race crap like Renaults.

Q: Matt, what is the latest on the length of Kahne’s new contract with Hendrick? Anything to tell or is this under wraps? – Amy Wright, Evansville, Ind.

A: Saw my first “big” concert in Evansville, Amy. Poison and Tesla, 1988. Roberts Stadium. Yeah it’s corny now, but I was the shizz in my eighth-grade class.

To your question, it’s a five-year deal that links Kahne and Hendrick in 2015. Seems that’s the length of choice for Hendrick nowadays; Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s contract is a similar length (2008-12) and Jimmie Johnson just inked himself a – you guessed it – five-year extension that runs through 2015.

And now, for the prognosticator of the bunch…

Q: My prediction is Kahne with Bud to SHR in 2011, and then to the No. 5 in 2012 when [Mark] Martin goes to a partial schedule with someone (who???) and Junior stays put in the No. 88! By 2012, SHR will need a full-time driver for the third car Kahne was in in 2011, so SHR (and Hendrick) brings in the biggest free agent. Don’t know who that would be, because [Kevin] Harvick will be under contract somewhere by then. This one move sets a whole lot of gears in motion.

And where does Danica [Patrick] fit? Well, if she proves herself worthy she’ll be at SHR. My thinking is she won’t stick in Cup. Hendrick will bring her up for select races, but she will be back in Indy full-time by 2013. Yes? No? – Mitch Lathen, Columbia, S.C.

A: Well, a large chunk of that is what we already know, but thanks for the input. In a teleconference on Wednesday, Rick Hendrick stated that Martin would step away from full-time competition (again) after the 2011 season, opening the door for Kahne in the No. 5. He indicated that JR Motorsports had no Cup aspirations in the near future, but much of that is Danica-dependent. He also said that neither he nor team principles have “talked to anyone in detail” yet concerning Kahne’s destination in 2011.

I think the “in detail” part is interesting. You know, I talked to Tom Bowles about Fanning the Flames earlier this week, but we didn’t talk “in detail.” Still, he knew it would be done and on what day it would be submitted.

But if you want to play connect the dots with what may/could happen, Mitch, the best way to start is by studying a list of free agents whose contracts expire following 2011. I’m not going to speculate who’s heading where, because I don’t want Joe Sparkplug reading this and telling his boys at the bar tonight that, “I heard…” and take it for fact.

The truth is, no one writing a column that is published for a worldwide audience knows how this will ultimately play out… not yet, anyway. That’s why I’m here and the guy who has the best view – Hendrick – is where he is. However, I’ll play along for a bit by compiling the aforementioned list for your perusal. Have a look at some of the names that will be on the market heading into 2012:

Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, David Ragan and Brian Vickers. Now, discuss amongst yourselves.

Now, to revisit Phoenix and its 60 laps that used-to-not-be…

Q: What’s the big deal with an extra 60 laps at Phoenix? I thought real NASCAR fans would want more racing, not less! Same with Pocono. If they ran at Pocono for 18 hours, I would probably watch the whole thing.

I’ve read on message boards on Frontstretch and on other sites where people are upset with added length. What?!?!!? Where did we get the notion that less is always more? As a fan, I want more laps, not less! – Nathan Howard, Memphis, Tenn.

A: Well, Nate is certainly in the minority of those I’ve talked to, but hey, to each his own. And your point is duly noted, bud.

I think what fans tire of is having to devote four hours to watching a freight train to get to an exciting finish. Were those four hours packed with two-wide and three-wide action, you probably wouldn’t see the complaints. Instead, a large sentiment of those reading and watching figure that a three-hour investment is more their speed these days.

And with that, we’re done. Thanks for sticking around till the end – and for those that did, you get this little gem.

Believe me, you do not want to miss this one… except for the clip at the 3:07 mark.