(photo courtesy Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Breaking news from SI.com:
Hendrick Motorsports and James Finch are working on a partnership to put Kasey Kahne in the #09 car for 2011, SI.com has learned. Multiple sources indicate the deal could be completed within the next few weeks. Hendrick will not be allowed to own the car under NASCAR’s four-team rule, leaving Finch in the position of ownership, although engines and chassis would continue to come from Hendrick.
Once completed, the partnership solves the HMS dilemma of where to put Kahne next season. Signed to take over the #5 car in 2012, Kahne leaves RPM at the end of the year but Hendrick already has four signed drivers — Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson — under contract for 2011. Stewart-Haas Racing was the first option for Kahne, but sources claim sponsorship and financial constraints for that team have made such a move impossible.
Instead, the partnership with Phoenix Racing is a compromise solution. Under a one-year deal, Kahne will be installed with a single-car team that gives him the opportunity to continue running full-time. Here’s the kicker: once Kahne moves to HMS, sources claim the man he’s replacing, Mark Martin, may be interested in purchasing the Phoenix team for 2012 as he scales back his driving career.
Spokesmen on both sides have denied a deal is in the works. According to Hendrick spokesman Jesse Essex, “Our position with regard to 2011 has not changed. We continue to be open to various options, and nothing has been determined at this time.” The 51-year-old Martin also remains uncommitted to his future beyond 2011.
“I have to say options are in the beginning stages of formulating for what ’12 would bring,” he said at a press conference Friday morning in Michigan. “With not a very high sense of urgency, since I have actually made it clear that I am going to be driving the #5 car next year. It’s still real early to talk about ’12. I don’t think that anything that we had initially had thrown up in the air works great with me driving the #5 in ’11 and getting involved with some other team… although you never know what might happen.”
The dominoes are starring to fall into place regarding Kasey Kahne’s 2011 driving future. Never underestimate the creativeness and power that Rick Hendrick possesses!