Now that we have all had a day to soak in the shock of Kasey Kahne going to Hendrick Motorsports, it is time to speculate on everything else. With Hendrick already having the maximum of a four car team, who is the odd man out? Many seem to think Kahne will go to Stewart Haas for 2011 and wait for Mark Martin to retire after the season. This is a good time for me to say I don?t believe this is how it will work out.
I am in the minority on this one ? it is really difficult to see Kahne drive for a satellite organization for a year before going to new his ride. With sponsors and fan merchandise, it seems silly to do this. It would be more reasonable to think that if SHR were to expand to three teams next year, they would put Martin in the car and let Kahne get started on his Hendrick career. Here is my other issue; Martin is ?supposed to? retire after 2011, but where have we heard this before? I am not convinced Martin is ready to retire yet. You really have to look at the other possibilities like Jeff Gordon retiring or Dale Earnhardt Jr. possibly bringing his Nationwide team to Cup. Of these, I find it more likely Gordon would retire first ? Rick?s not going to let Jr. walk out of his contract as there is way too much money coming in from marketing alone. The chances of either of those two happening for next year are very slim, but crazier things have happened. After all, who expected Kahne to jump ship to team Hendrick? One thing we can safely assume is that the guy who drives the 48 (I can?t remember his name) isn?t going anywhere.
What about Budweiser? Depending on what they do it will have huge implications on Richard Petty Motorsports. If Budweiser stays, it will save a team already strapped for cash prior to losing their star driver. If they do decide to stay at RPM, I see it being a two car operation with AJ Allmendinger in the 43 Budweiser Ford and Paul Menard in the 98 Menards Ford (sorry Elliott, looks like you won?t be racing with the big boys next year). And this is the best case scenario for RPM. Without a top sponsor, Menard will probably bolt to another team and Petty will be unable to compete next year.
So having explained that, this is what I expect 2011 to look like.
Jimmie Johnson #48
Jeff Gordon #24(I really think he might retire before ol? Stiffy)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 (Once his contract is up, he is driving for his own team in Cup)
Kasey Kahne #25
Stewart Haas Racing
Tony Stewart #14
Ryan Newman #39
Mark Martin #5
Richard Petty Motorsports
AJ Allmendinger #43 (Budweiser)
Paul Menard #98
As I mentioned previously, it seems most logical to go ahead to get Kahne in a Hendrick car as soon as possible. I know he has already been confirmed to drive the 5 starting in 2012, but things can change. Until Mark Martin comes out and say he will retire after next season, I think Kasey Kahne will be driving for Hendrick in 2011.
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