The long-anticipated breakup between Kasey Kahne and Richard Petty Motorsports finally happened Wednesday night. And though it was a mutual decision, RPM is the one that gets to say it dumped Kahne.
Kahne, as expected, was not without a ride for long, however. On Thursday morning, Team Red Bull tabbed the 30-year old to drive the team’s #83 Toyota for the rest of the season in an effort to get a head-start on 2011.
Aric Almirola will replace Kahne in the #9 this weekend at Martinsville.
Some people may be surprised that Kahne didn’t stay to finish out the year in the #9, and that he left/was pushed out of the only ride of his career on such a miserable note. Others feel that perhaps this was a long-time coming, and that Kahne should have left/been pushed out awhile ago.
Ultimately, I think this is best for both sides; even RPM, whose future beyond this weekend’s race is now in doubt.
What Kahne gets is a head-start on his 2011 campaign, as well as the best equipment Team Red Bull has to offer. That includes veteran crew chief Jimmy Elledge who, with a better-than-average driver behind the wheel, will no doubt be hungry to get a win before the season is over.
What RPM gets is a driver who is actually interested in driving their car, and who won’t quit on them no matter what. Almirola is one of those drivers who is still trying to make a name for himself at NASCAR’s top level, and will be out to show NASCAR scouts what he can do in high-dollar Sprint Cup equipment.
Assuming they can race in 2011, RPM will also get to focus on getting its 2011 flagship driver AJ Allmendinger prepared for next season, instead of trying to make sure they end Kahne’s tenure with the team on a high note.
Though this bitter breakup between team and driver may not have been what fans wanted to see, it’s probably best for everybody involved. Now we can all move on, and get a head-start on 2011.