Kasey Kahne expects to have more stability and less drama at Red Bull Racing this year than he had at Richard Petty Motorsports in 2010, hopefully producing better results on the track.
Only time will tell if that’s the case, but Kahne has every reason to believe things will play out that way.
In 2010, he started the season with the revamped Richard Petty Motorsports, which had just merged with Yates Racing. In April, Kahne announced he was leaving RPM after the season and had signed with Hendrick Motorpsorts to replace Mark Martin in 2012, putting his plans for 2011 in limbo.
It wasn’t until August that he landed with Red Bull for 2011. That relationship began with five races remaining in the 2010 season after Kahne was accused of not pulling his weight at RPM, which was going through a financial crisis at the time.
“I don’t feel like there’s going to be all this drama and craziness throughout the season,” Kahne said. “That’s a pretty good feeling. That’s something I need and I’m looking forward to having that.”
But will that really happen? Will Kahne be privy to all the inside information from Toyota and Red Bull when everyone knows he’s moving to a Chevy team after the season? If he struggles, will critics point fingers at him for coasting through the season while he waits to get into Hendrick equipment? And how will his team perform knowing there is no future with Kahne beyond 2011?
Isn’t this a situation ripe for drama?
“I don’t feel like that at all,” Kahne said. “I feel like talking to the Toyota people, definitely being part of Red Bull, there’s zero issues there. It’s been awesome. The first two tests, the way both teams have worked together, not just the drivers but the teams, the crew chiefs, the tire guys, everybody has been a part of it.
“People realized that I’m really excited and really happy and it’s kind of a breath of fresh air for me.”
Team General Manager Jay Frye agreed. First of all, he said, Hendrick Motorsports is so good that the organization is not looking for information from Kahne about Red Bull. And, more importantly, Red Bull needs to show that it can succeed to attract a quality driver for 2012.
“He can be our greatest asset in helping hire his replacement,” said Frye, whose two teams finished 25th and 31st in the owner standings last year. “The drivers talk among themselves about this is a great car, they’ve got great motors, they have a great team, a great sponsor.
“What is cool about it is we know what the deal is. He’s going to get out of the car at [Homestead] and it’s over. It’s absolutely not bad. … It’s a gap thing, but this can help catapult the whole thing to the next level, which is where we need to go.”
Crew chief Kenny Francis, who came to Red Bull with Kahne, does not have a contract to follow Kahne to Hendrick, although it would be no surprise if he leaves as well.
“My deal could be anything,” Francis said. “It could be just one year, it could be multiyear, who knows? It all depends on performance. More and more, you might have a three-year deal but it really just depends on performance.
“If you’re not performing then they’re going to get someone else that might give them a better chance.”
Francis said that even though RPM got its cars from Roush Fenway Racing last year, he was pleasantly surprised that he got all of the information he needed to run fast.
“A lot of that is kind of overrated, people trying to keep secrets,” Francis said. “The last six months I was at RPM, we were working with Roush and Roush didn’t keep any secrets. You think they would, but it was a scenario where we all worked together to try to help each other.
“As long as everyone is trying to help each other, it will work. I’m the type of person that doesn’t have any secrets anyway. I don’t believe in operating that way and I don’t think any of these guys here do either.”
Kahne has made the Chase For The Sprint Cup twice in his seven-year career. He has 11 wins – one in 2005, six in 2006, two in 2008 and two in 2009. He went winless in 2010 and finished 20th in the standings.
He hopes he can win races and contend for the Chase this season with Red Bull. He replaces Scott Speed, who finished 30th in the 2010 standings, but Kahne will have six crewmen who worked with him last year at RPM with him at Red Bull for 2011.
“The way I look at it is I always want to make the Chase,” Kahne said. “You have to make the Chase. That’s what everybody is here for. You have to win races, that’s why we do it is to win.
“And the only way to do that is to be consistent in this sport and that’s something where I feel like I’ve failed over the years. I’ve had years where I haven’t been very consistent, I’ve had years where we’ve been a lot better, and that’s something that I need to get a lot better at. To me, if I want to win races and make the Chase, I need to be consistent.”