The news today that Kasey Kahne will drive a Red Bull Racing Team Toyota in 2011 leaves open as many questions as it answers.
The first answer provided is that the world now knows where Kahne – who announced earlier this summer that he would leave Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of this season – will be driving next year. Of course, he’ll just be marking time at Red Bull because he’s already signed a multi-year contract to drive for Rick Hendrick beginning in 2012.
The questions left unanswered, however, are:
• Which of Red Bull’s two drivers, Scott Speed or Brian Vickers, will Kahne be replacing? Vickers is out for the season because of illness and Speed hasn’t performed up to expectations.
• Where will Kahne’s Budweiser sponsorship go? Will the brewery stick with Petty (which signed A.J. Allmendinger to a multi-year contract last weekend) or sit out a year before going to Hendrick with Kahne in 2012. One thing’s for sure: you won’t see a beer logo on a Red Bull car.
Kahne, 30, owns an impressive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series résumé. He has 11 wins, 17 poles, 47 top-five and 84 top-10 finishes and twice was a Chase participant in 2006 and 2009.
“This opportunity places me with an established, competitive team that has proven they can win races and make the Chase,” Kahne said.
Meantime, Hendrick cleared up a question concerning his team. He issued a statement to confirm that Mark Martin will continue to drive the organization’s No. 5 Chevrolet in 2011.
Speculation has been rampant that Martin would step out of that car at the end of this season to make room for Kahne.
“Kasey is going to a competitive organization that made the Chase last season and has great leadership and resources,” Hendrick said in a news release.
“Of everything we looked at, he and I agree it’s the best opportunity for him to be successful in 2011, which was always our No. 1 priority.
“The process went on longer than any of us anticipated, but I’m glad that we took our time to make sure it was right. And although I’m not looking forward to racing against him next year, I’m comfortable knowing this is the best situation for Kasey.”
Hendrick added that his organization is pleased to have another season with Martin in its car as well.
Martin is currently 12th in the Cup standings a year after finishing as the championship runner-up. Kahne is 17th in the standings.