NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2010 NASCAR Driver Review: Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne

2010 Ride: No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota
2010 Primary Sponsors: Budweiser (No. 9), Red Bull (No. 83)
2010 Owners: George Gillett, Richard Petty (No. 9), Dietrich Mateschitz (No. 83)
2010 Crew Chiefs: Kenny Francis (No. 9), Jimmy Elledge (No. 83)
2010 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 7 top fives, 10 top 10s, 4 poles, 20th in points

High Point: Despite the 10 top-10 finishes, including two second-place results at Michigan and Daytona this year, getting out of Richard Petty Motorsports may have been the high point of Kahne’s season. The team that nearly had the bottom fall out from under them has since announced new ownership and a two-car team, a last-minute deal that prevented an embarrassing, complete collapse altogether. With both sides going their separate ways, an early release gave Kahne a five-race head start for his 2011 venture with Red Bull Racing.

Low Point: Kahne’s four DNFs on the season led him to a disappointing 20th-place finish in the final driver points standings. Coming off of a 2009 season filled with inconsistent performance and talks of whether or not Kahne’s future included RPM, the team came into the 2010 Daytona 500 looking for a good beginning to what they had hoped would be a season to erase some of those memories.

Rather, what they received was more of the same during what became a lame-duck year of sorts for both. Kahne recorded 22 finishes outside the top-10 during his 31-race period with RPM, a disappointing end to the only Cup partnership he’d ever known during seven years at NASCAR’s top level.

Summary: Kahne’s season turned from one with high anticipation to one full of drama and debate on who gave up on who first. Kahne started the season with RPM amid questions of pending free agency. In April, he announced that he would move to Hendrick Motorsports starting in 2012, but with Mark Martin sticking to his promise of racing with HMS in 2011, there was no room available for Kahne and he, with the help of Rick Hendrick, would have to find a team willing to open a seat for one season.

It was later announced that Red Bull Racing would be that team. At the time, Kahne claimed he would join them in 2011, but finish out the season with his No. 9 Ford.

However, plans changed. When Kahne got out of his wrecked racecar during the fall Charlotte race, he said he received criticism from an unnamed official that he was “laying down on the team” for saying he was too sick to finish the race with a wrecked car.

After Kahne went on to compete in a 5k charity run sponsored by his foundation the next day, he was released from his contract with RPM early amid reports of financial problems that may have helped cause the flareup; some sources continue to insist Kahne was not paid his full salary until after the negotiated release. For the record, Kahne denies those allegations, claiming he was always paid in full without any problems.

Kahne then finished the season with Red Bull Racing in the No. 83 car, which was vacated by Brian Vickers early in the year and was being driven by a variety of substitute drivers. The Washington native closed the season with a sixth-place finish at Homestead for his first top-10 with the organization he hopes to take to greater heights in 2011.

Off-Track News: The Kasey Kahne Foundation contributed $500,000 to the Ronald McDonald House Charities to assist in the building of a new Ronald McDonald House in the Charlotte, N.C. area. Kahne held a successful charity run in October to raise awareness for the new facility, which also donated proceeds from the charity run to fund field trips for students associated with the NC STEM Community Collaborative to visit the NASCAR Hall Of Fame.

2011 Outlook: Next season serves as a one-year stopgap, separating Kahne’s long-term relationship with a variation of Evernham Motorsports and what looks to be another long-lasting relationship with HMS. As Kahne waits for Martin to retire from full-time driving at HMS, he will take the spot from recently released driver Scott Speed and drive in the No. 82 car, or a different number to be announced, next season.

Kahne raced only five races with RBR in 2010, yielding only the lone top-10 finish at Homestead. However, the team he’ll work with now will be dramatically different. Kahne’s former crew chief Kenny Francis was also not allowed to join the team until 2011, and he now brings a number of longtime No. 9 crew members with him, released from a rapidly downsizing RPM.

Red Bull Racing had been progressively moving up in the NASCAR totem pole until the team lost their marquee driver Vickers due to blood clots at the start of the season. With Vickers returning and Kahne replacing Speed, who had been unable to put together any consistency with the team, things are looking up and they will likely continue that rise.

Kahne could easily be considered a darkhorse pick to make the Chase field next season and contend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. He has proven capable and competitive as long as he has a stable home and a decided future. All Kahne has to worry about now is holding his right foot down and turning left; with some much-needed off-track stress relief, he should do a great job of that in 2011.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: B
2007 Grade: D
2008 Grade: C+
2009 Grade: B+
2010 Grade: C

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