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Hendrick and Kahne talk about their new deal

Kasey Kahne to drive for Rick Hendrick
Friday, April 16, 2010

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An interview with:
RICK HENDRICK -- OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS
KASEY KAHNE -- DRIVER OF THE NO. 5 CHEVROLET IN 2012
JESSE ESSEX -- EVENT MODERATOR

JESSE ESSEX: We appreciate everybody joining us today. I'd like to take a quick moment to welcome all the listeners on SIRIUS NASCAR radio, who are tuning in. On the call this afternoon is Rick Hendrick, Owner of Hendrick Motorsports, along with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver, Kasey Kahne. Mr. Hendrick is calling in from his office at Hendrick Motorsports in Concord, N.C., and Kasey's joining us from Scottsdale, Ariz. Thank you, both for your time.

And for those members of the media covering the Texas race, we want to note that Kasey will be available at the racetrack Friday, as will Mark Martin. Those details will be posted.

It was officially announced this morning that Kasey will drive the Hendrick Motorsport's No. 5 Chevrolet, beginning with the 2012 Sprint Cup season. Mr. Hendrick, obviously a big announcement. In the news release, you described this as an unbelievable opportunity for Hendrick Motorsports. Could you expand on that and talk a little about what Kasey brings to the organization?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, when we, when you look at Kasey's record and 11 wins and 16 poles and just turned 30 years old, he's one of the all ready stars of our sport, but got a lot of years left ahead of him. And knowing that Mark was wanting to retire after the 2011 season, we just looked at this as a golden opportunity for our organization to pick up such a great talent, but also a guy that just all of our drivers had, independently, solicited me to, that I should try to go after. And, you know, the way he fits with our organization and our drivers, I think it's going to be a, it's a golden opportunity for us. And it's an investment in our future because of Kasey's age. So we're just real excited about having him become part of a deal.

JESSE ESSEX: Thank you, Mr. Hendrick. Kasey, this has been an extremely important process for you personally and professionally. Can you tell us a little bit about that process and what ultimately brought you to this decision?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, I just, you know, I've had a, I've never been in this position before. I've never been in a situation where I'm talking to other teams, and looking at my future and thinking about that until this year. And it's been really eye opening, and I've had a really good time meeting with a lot of the people in the sport, and I've learned a lot. And just to get the relationship with Mr. Hendrick and have the opportunity to go and drive the 5 car in the future is just an awesome opportunity for myself. And I'm really excited. I'm really excited to have it done with now, announced and can really just focus on the rest of my year and my commitment with Budweiser and Richard Petty Motorsports and my team there, and just try to win some races there. But, you know, the future's, I'm excited. I think it's the best opportunity I could ever have, and I'm just going to make the most out of it. And I feel like the drivers there, the crew chiefs, the people that work for Hendrick Motorsports, I think it will just be a great fit. You know, I really like those guys. I enjoy them and think that, you know, I can learn a lot from them, and look forward to all that.

Q: Hi, I think you meant Tom Jensen. Mr. H., congratulations on the signing. Is there any chance that in 2011 you might to help Dale Earnhardt, Jr. get the JR Motorsports Team moved up to the Cup level and put Kasey over there?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, we have not gotten into any particulars yet. Everything is brand new. You know, we're focused, Kasey had enough faith in our organization to sign a multi-year deal, and we're just, it's kind of a unique animal that we know what we're going to do come '12, but right now we haven't locked in on what we're going to do in '11 yet. And there are just a ton of options, and we're going to, no decision's been made yet, Don.

Q: Just a quick follow up to that. Is it, when do you need to have a time table to make a decision about 2011? Can it go several months, or is it something that you need to wrap up quickly?

RICK HENDRICK: No, I don't, you know, again, I don't think it's something that we've got any deadline on. And, but surely, we should have something done in the next 90 days for sure.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Yes, Rick, Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer. Going on the lines of Tom Jensen's question, should we automatically assume that whatever arrangement is made with Kasey will in some way be connected in some fashion with Hendrick Motorsports? And is it your responsibility to work out the 2011 situation or his or both of yours?

RICK HENDRICK: No. It's on my, Jim, it's my responsibility. Again, I'm not speaking for Kasey, but we wanted, I wanted this deal so bad because I thought that he was just a perfect fit for our company with the talent he has, and it was just like the perfect guy for us. And I made a statement a minute ago that probably isn't correct. I don't think Mark will ever retire, he just don't want to run all the races any more. But, you know, but it's, my goal is to put him in the best situation to win races and win a championship. And we realize that we've got to do something in '11, but we're going to adhere to the NASCAR policy and do it according to their rules and regulations are. But this was just too good an opportunity for me to pass up. And so it's clearly all on my shoulders, and I'm committed to giving him the best opportunity, put him in the best place for '11 that we can come up with.

Q: As a quick follow up for Kasey, is that basically, Kasey, was that basically your philosophy the opportunity was too good to pass up? And that's why you're willing to leave next year kind of up in the air for the time being?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I just, you know, when you're in a situation like this, I just feel like I need to make a situation that's, or a decision that's with the future. You know, and the future for myself. And I thought that this was, something that I really, really wanted to do. And it makes a lot of sense to do it. So we're going to figure out '11 shortly. But, you know, right now we don't know, but we'll definitely figure that out. It'll be something really good. And then, we know what's after that.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Thank you. Rick, I want to ask you a question with looking at your organization and the Stewart-Haas Racing organization with the alliance and the close, and the relationship that it has. All ready this season you guys have won four of the first seven races, scored 40% of all of the top fives and nearly a quarter of all the top tens. I think there's a lot of expectation that, you know, obviously one opportunity is Kasey possibly going over to Stewart-Haas Racing for a year. Some people look at this just as the rich getting richer. I wanted ask your perspective, at what point for the sport can such a dominance by, you know, one umbrella organization be a concern or possibly an impact on fan interest or even those who might want to enter the sport via ownership or sponsorship?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, I Dustin, I'm not, I don't know how to answer that other than, you know, we have a, our organization has won races. Tony and Gene Haas have done a good job over there, and basically they, Tony put together a good group of people and they've been successful. They won one race, we won three this year. And a lot of races we won, you know, we were just there, you know, we didn't lead all the laps. We were probably the second or third best car, but we came out on top. And you know, I don't see with the fans that pull for the drivers, not the organizations, and you know, I don't see that that's, I'd like to think that we're going to be, win 40% of the races from here on. But you know, we won four championships back in the '90s, and then we went on a dry spell, and a big dry spell. And then we put it back together and we've had good success here lately. But you know, it's, there are guys, there are organizations out there with ten, eight to ten guys that share information, same motor programs, everybody's kind of getting into that. Toyota has a huge alliance with sharing information. It's, you know, it's, that's what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to win and compete. And you know, I think that we're doing our job, but it doesn't mean that it's going to be automatic. But, you know, we've got to, you got to keep working as hard as you can doing all the things you know how to do. But if you look at the races this year, we haven't dominated. We've been, you know, in the right place at the right time. And you know, I think the, you can't take away from the fact that Tony Stewart has put together a good organization over there. And they've, he and Ryan are great drivers.

Q: Also, Rick, as a partial stake holder in JR Motorsports, I know you haven't looked at, like I said if Kasey might fit in there. But as a partial stake holder, do you foresee or when could it be viable for that organization to move to Cup? And would it make sense sooner than later in light of some of the challenges recently in finding sponsorship for a nationwide program?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, Junior's made it pretty clear that he wants to see that a nationwide organization. And I think with the commitments that Danica and you know, what's going there, you know, that is totally Junior and Kelly's call. But he's been pretty vocal about wanting to, you know, make that a nationwide operation. But, you know, that could change subject to Danica's decisions, and really that decision is going to be made by Dale and Kelly.

Q: Thank you.

RICK HENDRICK: Yes, sir.

Q: Hi, Rick and Kasey. My question's kind of for both of you. And I may be putting the cart ahead of the horse, because it's a little related to how much room here is at the inn. Kasey, based on your affinity for your crew chief, I assume you'd like to continue working with Kenny in some form or fashion. And if that is indeed the case, Mr. H., how does that fit in, since you all ready have four crew chiefs?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, go ahead, Kasey.

KASEY KAHNE: You know, my relationship with Kenny has been awesome. I get to work with him every week. We have a great communication between ourselves and kind of what the car's doing and what changes we need to make. And I feel like we can win a lot of races this year or some races this year and before the season's done. So you know, I look forward to working with Kenny the rest of this year, and hopefully we work together in the future. But I, personally I don't know. That's one of the things that I'm not sure of yet, you know, what's going to happen there.

Q: Mr. H. do you already have an idea in your head? Alan's currently the crew chief of the 5, but is that, you know, are we still two years out and you don't know yet how it'll play out?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah. You never know, you know, again, what's going to happen in this sport. But, you know, we've got four great crew chiefs here. They do a great job, and today we're locked and set. And you know, who knows what the future's going to bring.

Q: Okay. Thank you.

Q: Yeah, Rick, you said earlier that you wanted to make sure that you adhere to NASCAR policy and do it according to the rules and regulations. Are you concerned at all, knowing how vigilant they've been in enforcing the four car rule, are you, and knowing this is somewhat uncharted territory here, signing a driver a full season and a half ahead. Are you worried that they might be concerned if you put Kasey with a team that uses your chassis and engines?

RICK HENDRICK: Not at all. I mean, there's a, you know, we've done chassis and engines for lots of people and it never comes up. And this isn't the first time an organization signed a driver. You know, it happens in IRL. It happens in Formula 1 all the time. And you know, there again, I have to look at the future of our company, and we're going to do what we're supposed to do by the NASCAR rules. And you know, we're-- there's lots of options. You know, we've got a year to, hurdle to get over and, but at the, Kasey and I decided that it was worth it. I mean, I am-- the success that we've had here with the four teams has been good. And you know, with Mark saying that '11 is definitely the last year he can run the full schedule, sometimes you have a hard time matching up the opportunity, the date the seat's open with the date that the driver's available. So after, you know, there wasn't any doubt in my mind that this was a commitment that I would make to Kasey. Put the burden on my shoulders, because I see him as a future star and a guy that will be racing here a long time, winning championships and races. And you know, we'll just figure out, we're going to figure out '11. And you know, if it was under the old regime, I'd have him billing over here and have five teams. But I can't do that. So you know, we, I understood that, he understands that. And we're just going to, we'll figure it out.

Q: So if he were to drive in a stop-gap type measure one season with Stewart-Haas, that you don't have, you think that will meet NASCAR approval, no problem?

RICK HENDRICK: Sure it will. I mean, you know, I have no ownership whatsoever in that team. And you know I sell them engines, and I sell them chassis. And you know, no different than James Finch or the 78 car or you know, now, or any of the other alliances like the Earnhardt Ganassi. That's an ownership deal, when you look at some of those teams. Our deal has been clearly, their ownership, our ownership. They're a retail customer.

Q: Is it fair, last follow up, is it far to say then, Rick, that it's pretty much 100% guarantee that Kasey will drive a Chevrolet for somebody next year?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, it'll be a Chevrolet.

Q: Okay. Thank you, sir.

Q: Yeah, Rick, I'm curious with Kasey coming on, what kind of sponsorship opportunities you see, you know, obviously going from an older drive to a younger driver? And then, if Kasey could talk a little bit about what he thinks might happen with Bud, and whether they would come by the time he gets tendered?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, when you couple Kasey's talent with his, you know, his looks and his popularity, clearly, he is-- would be a sponsor's dream for anybody. He fits in any and every category. So from that standpoint, he's got all positives. I mean, he's, again, he's a-- he could work with any sponsor.

Q: And do you have a clean slate on that car? In other words, does the primary end at the same time that Mark will stop driving full time?

RICK HENDRICK: We've got options. I mean, again, those kind of things, I'd have to go back and look at all the contracts because some of them have options to renew, and we haven't even gotten that far yet.

Q: And Kasey, from your perspective, Budweiser in the future What do you think?

KASEY KAHNE: Man, I've, you know it's my third year with Budweiser and it's been a great, you know, partnership with those guys. They're really good people. I've really enjoyed the brand. But I don't know what the future is for myself and Budweiser. I definitely enjoy what I've had so far and hope to stick with them, you know, for a long time, if that's what works out, but I really have no idea.

Q: Thank you. Well, first for Rick and then for Kasey. Rick, this opportunity just came up, but you're the king of strategic thinking when it comes to getting and securing top drivers in the garage area. Knowing that he was looking and trying to decide, how long have you had your eye on Kasey?

RICK HENDRICK: Golly, a long time. You know, he-- you know, I have the utmost respect for Ray Evernham, and you know Ray had talked about Kasey's talent way back when he first started his team and put him in his car. And I've watched him and our guys have watched him, and you know, we've been in a position where, you know, all of our seats were full. And when, you know, Mark, and I think Mark actually talked to Kasey a year ago about this is what he ought to do. And Mark was working and came to me a year ago saying "That's a guy you ought to put in a car." And you know, so it's been on the radar for a good while.

Q: Thank you. And Kasey, you know, thinking about your career, the different organizations and manufacturers and what not, can you talk a little bit about being in a Hendrick car. What you expect that to do to you? How good their cares are and are you just itching to get into one of their cars?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, I'm really looking forward to it, looking forward to the future, and being able to work with those guys and just drive, just drive for Mr. Hendrick. I mean, the cars, the engines, the people that work there, I mean, they have such a team organization and I feel like I can fit really well with the team and fit really well, you know, with team mates and working together and that kind of stuff. So I think it's going to be a-- I really look forward to it. I get to race against Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Mark Martin. I race against them every week and it'll be nice to part of that, part of that team and race with them each week, but be part of the organization.

Q: I guess with a quick follow up, obviously the team, and how they get along and they all love working over there. But do you think the equipment is so stellar that this will have your career soaring?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think their equipment's, you know, definitely very good. You know, but I think it takes people, and they have great people and it takes a lot of dedication and hard work, and that's where you get Jimmie Johnson. That's why that guy and that team are so strong. And you know, Jimmie's always-- every time I talk to him or watch what he's doing, whether it's on the track or on the track, you always see that he's trying to find ways to make himself better. And you know, so that's why Jimmie Johnson wins, is because how hard that team works, and that team works. And I feel like going to a team like this and having an opportunity like this, it's up to me how bad I want it. If I put in, you know, the effort, the commitment, hopefully, I can definitely win some races there.

Q: Thank you. Good luck, guys.

RICK HENDRICK: Thank you, Claire.

Q: This is for Mr. Hendrick. Mr. Hendrick, you've kind of answered this all ready, but do you foresee any circumstances where Mark might not want to return next year, either because he wins it all next year, or this year or any other circumstances?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, you know, all I can tell you is what Mark's told me. He wanted to run another year, wanted to run through '11. And I asked him did he want to run, could he do it beyond "11? And he said, no, he just didn't think he could do that. And so, you know, that's all I know right now.

Q: And also, and do you have a time table for when you'd like to get Kasey hooked up with a deal for next year?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, no, not really. I try not to set those kind of deadlines or time tables because sure as you do, you force yourself into something that's not right. And you know, this is all so new, we just haven't had a chance to sit back and analyze everything. And literally, our people here and within 24 hours or 36 hours of us getting it done we, the whole world knows it. So we, we haven't had any kind of quiet time to think about the best approaches here, other than my total commitment to him. And I want to say this, too, about our guys here, and Kasey touched on it. Nobody-- there weren't a lot of people trying to hire Jimmie Johnson when he came here. And we didn't have a sponsor. And we were right at getting the year kicked off before we got Lowe's and we had to talk them into taking a chance with a young guy. The same thing with Jeff Gordon. I signed a long-term deal to get, paint, put paint in my dealerships to get a sponsor for Jeff Gordon. And Dale Earnhardt's a different story. But Mark Martin's a guy that had been part time, I talked into coming back, and you know, so the bottom line is, like Kasey said, it's not the, so much the equipment, it's the people and their attitude and their willingness to work hard and work together that has made this deal what it is. And the fit with Kasey is like a glove with Jeff and Jimmie and Dale. They all three had come to me, telling me that he would be the guy, if we could get him.

Q: Thank you.

Q: For Kasey, I was curious, did you turn down any offers from any teams that all ready had sponsorship and everything lined up for next year in order to be in this, instead to go, be in this limbo next year and be with Rick in 2012?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, I had a-- I talked to a lot of teams, all the teams, you know, over the last couple months. And I just felt like Hendrick Motorsports was the best opportunity, the best place for myself and my future, and that's what we went with.

Q: And have you talked to anybody yet at RPM or Ford and do you expect to be locked out of any meetings or discussions about chassis or engine development moving, forward the rest of the year?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I don't know, I've definitely talked to RPM. I've talked to all the people I needed to talk to. And we're all on the same page as far as trying to finish strong, and working together and trying to do the right thing. And I have a lot of faith in the 9 guys, our whole Budweiser team. I have a lot of faith in Richard Petty Motorsports, and what they're doing right in working with Ralph Grayson (ph), Ralph Spinway (ph). I'm excited about the rest of the year and I think we can do some good stuff, and still make the chase if we can get our season turned around. So I'm looking forward to it. I don't know what's going to happen as far as myself and the shop, and how the meetings will work. But as of right now, I think everything will be just like it's been the first couple months for this season.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Kasey, when did this all start? When did you first start talking to Rick and how quickly did all this come together?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, the, you know, truthfully, it started, I don't know. It's been on my mind for a long time on what my future would hold, and what I would like to do. And I think as a race car driver, Hendrick Motorsports is one of the places that, you know, that you always dream of racing for. You dream of driving for Mr. Hendrick, and so, you know, I've thought about that for a long time, and where I want to go. But you know, it's been in the last, really the last couple months that we've kind of put this deal together and worked on it. And it's just, you know, when I talked to Mark Martin, and I, you know, learned a lot about the place from Mark and talked to him about things. And you know, he had a lot of really good advice. As well, Jimmie Johnson has helped me a lot over the last couple years with a lot of different things. And then, you know, they were all supportive of this too. So I just felt like, you know, it's a neat fit, it's a great fit. And I look forward to it.

Q: Did you have Hendrick in mind as where you could possibly want to land at the very beginning?

KASEY KAHNE: Beginning of what?

Q: This free agency period, or whenever you made up your mind that RPM's not going to be the place for you?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, like I said, it's a place where, you know, a race car driver, you know, if you have an opportunity to go there, you definitely need to look at it and think hard about, you know, what your future holds. And I didn't know at first. I didn't know if that would be a, if they would want me, or how all that works out. So I talked to all the teams. I had really good conversations with everybody, and really enjoyed all that learning about each team and each organization and the owners there. And this is just the one that worked out.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Thank you. Rick, we know you said earlier that it was your responsibility to find Kasey a ride for 2011. And we know that he starts with you in '12 and it goes through '15, but what about 2011 with Hendrick Motorsports, specifically? What's his contract status with your organization? Does he have one for '11 or no?

RICK HENDRICK: Yes, yes, he does. He has a contract.

Q: Okay. So that contract says then, that it's, you're going to find him a ride?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, it's my responsibility to get him in a position. Course, he'll have to, he'll agree to it, but it's a stop gap to get us to '12. And you know, that's just the commitment we made to each other, and if we've got to have a rough year, and I don't foresee it to be a rough year, but it's kind of a year of transition to get, to hopefully have him for five, six, ten years, then I was willing and he was willing to go that route.

Q: Wonderful. Thank you. Congratulations.

RICK HENDRICK: Thanks, sir.

Q: Actually, I was going to ask Rick the same question as Marty, but I'll ask Kasey a question. Just Kasey, can you just talk a little bit about, this is very, very early in the season and we still have 29 races left, plus a couple others with the team that you're with. Will you have to devote a lot of time to the Hendrick and 2011 stuff that you think may take away from your effort with in the long season that's still ahead?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, you know, that's another thing that I'm not real sure about how that's going to work out. Yet. Just because all this was thrown at us so quickly. You know, Marty Smith breaking that yesterday like he did, is just, there was a lot of little specifics that we hadn't got to yet, you know. And all I know for sure is I'm going to put in a lot of time at Richard Petty Motorsports this year and make sure that we finish off there. Put in the effort that I've put in for the last six years. And I want to win races.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Thank you. Kasey, this situation is sort of like knowing you're really going to get a big Christmas present, but Christmas is a year or two away. How tough is it going to be for you to be patient through this period knowing that no later than '12 you're going to be in really good cars?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, you know, I'm in good cars now. I know I'll be in good cars next year. So it's not, to me it's more of a relief to have this out of my mind. You know, I just get to focus on racing this year. I know where I'm headed in '11. I know where I'm headed in '12, at least who I'm working with, with Mr. Hendrick. You know, and I'm happy with that right now, and in the next couple months we figure out more, but I'm happy with where we're at right now, for sure.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Yeah, this is for both Rick and Kasey. Basically, what it seems like you're going to be doing then is next year, you'll start with a team and then in 2011 you'll start with another team. So you're kind of starting over twice in a two year period. Knowing how long it takes to build chemistry and all, it seems like a bit of a sacrifice to get to where you want to go. Is that, was that a lot of consideration for either one of you when you were making this decision?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, well David, with me, you know, it is and it's one of those things that you, you look at what the end results are. You look at the fact that here's a 29 year old, 30 year old man, now that's again, has won, you know, 11 races and sitting on 16 poles, and can really get the job done. And he's been through a lot of transition, and it hasn't been all on the same deal. And you know, he's got so much talent then if I have to wait, if I have to assign his deal or whatever we got to do to get us to that point, it's going to mean years down the road of stability in racing in this organization. And he's committed to the 9 car. He runs awful good over there. And he's going to go back to work driving that car, and we're going to figure out the interim deal and then we'll go full bore. And you know, it's just, to me it was worth it. Whatever I-- whatever amount of sacrifice or whatever you want to call it, or time and effort, because you don't have a Kasey Kahne that comes along every day that has the whole package that fits with our guys, that they like a lot, and I like him, too. And you know, it's just you don't have those come along all the time.

Q: Kasey?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, that's something that I thought about. You know, I think, you know, working with, you know, a crew chief and a team for a while, definitely, the communication definitely gets better. You understand each other better, and that's something that you have to, have to learn. But I'm also looking at the future, and looking at down the road, and I feel like, I feel like I can adapt pretty quickly. I've always been able to adapt pretty quickly to situations, whether it's good, bad or indifferent. You have to adapt as a race car driver, and I've felt like I've done a decent job at that over the years. And I'm going to have to adapt a little bit and that's just something I'm going to go through and I'm going to figure out how to do it the best I can and as quickly as I possibly can.

Q: Great. To follow up, is there a scenario, I guess Mark Martin, said this is the guy you need. Where you would ask Mark or Mark would even volunteer to step aside and be the guy to go over to Stewart-Haas so Kasey could move in that ride and not have to make that adjustment, or are you set and determined that he'll be in that car through 2011?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, Mark has said he wants to drive that car, and that's the way we're headed right now.

Q: Thanks a lot, guys.

Q: Thanks. Congratulations Rick and Kasey. You've touched on options, or you touched on what could happen or you don't know really what happened. What are the viable options for Kasey for 2011? Is it Stewart-Haas? Is it, I mean is there is another alliance or another place or is Kasey maybe running a minimum, not a full schedule, but a partial schedule in some way, shape or form with one of those other, those places? I mean, what are the, what are the options presented to you right now?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, we haven't, again, you know, I know you guys feel like we're stonewalling you and that's not, that's not the case. Marty's such a bloodhound that he, you know, he comes, the ink's not dry and he's out here reporting it. And we can't, there is no perfect scenario in this deal. I mean, there is just no way to say, this is what you're going to do. Because we don't, we're just barely into the 2010 year, and a lot of things change, a lot of things happen. But the commitment is there from Hendrick Motorsports to Kasey and from Kasey to us. We want to be together that bad that we're willing to say, okay, let's make, let's just, let's forget about, you know, trying to figure it all out right now. This is what we're going to do, and we'll figure it out later. And that's what we did. And we'll figure it out later. I mean, I'm just telling you, have not, we haven't talked to anyone in detail about what we, what could be done. If people have called, you know, saying, "Hey would you consider this?" So we're just, I think you know, what Kasey wants to do is go back to the track and get in that 9 car and give them everything he's got. And then I'm going to huddle with my guys and we're going to decide the best route and the options that are on the table. Again, to sit within the NASCAR guidelines and we'll all make the best decision and we'll move forward.

Q: Thank you, Rick.

RICK HENDRICK: Sir.

Q: Thank you. Rick, a couple questions for you. First of all, Jack Roush can be a vindictive person. He cut the string early on Kurt Busch and let him go. If that was the case, could you kind of move the program up faster for Kasey? And I guess, the second question, over at Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Gibson was able to bring his entire crew from DEI and, you know, not have to start fresh. He had the resources there. They had the relationship where they could kind of go forward. Is that, you know, could that be a situation or scenario that you see for, with Kasey Kahne in the future?

RICK HENDRICK: Again, you know, there are so any possibilities, they're just too, it's not fair to anyone to even speculate because we don't have, we don't have option a, b, c and d right now. We're just too fresh into the deal, and we've kind of decided, let's take a couple of days here and get our breath and then we'll go back at it. So you know, there are just, if we laid out ten options, there will be some more that'll pop up. So you know, we just have to wait and see.

Q: And to follow that up, you are going to be in a precarious position though, because where ever he does land, you're probably going to need you know, 50 to 60 guys to run that team that season. Where do they come from? And then what do you tell them after the final race of 2011?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, you, we don't know for sure that that's going to have to be 50 to 60 guys and that they'll, you know, we don't know any of that yet. There may be an opportunity that, that nobody here has even thought of yet. So you know, we just got to wait and see.

Q: Thank you, sir.

Q: Rick, I just wanted to ask you or try to pin you down so that there's no, we can't come back later and say maybe your words could have gone one way or the other. Is there, are you certain Kasey won't be in the 5 car next year?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, Jenna, I'll tell you, if, it would have to be Mark Martin's thing that he does not want to do what he told me he wanted to do. It's that simple.

Q: Okay. Okay, thank you.

RICK HENDRICK: Okay.

Q: Hi, Rick. My question is, will this unfold at Hendrick Motorsports again or could we possible see you do a deal like this again in the future, where you sign a driver and maybe have to hold them off for a couple years until a seat is available once again?

RICK HENDRICK: I think this is a unique situation. If you look at our guys, where we are right now, with all the years that we have on the contracts, I think once Kasey's in the car our stable is set. You know, there might be a development driver or it might be something else in a young guy, whatever, but I feel like once Kasey's in the seat of that 5 car, we're set for a pretty good amount of years. Probably, I'll probably retire before I need anybody else.

Q: You don't see this type of contract becoming the norm for your organization?

RICK HENDRICK: No, I, you know, you have to think a little bit outside the box sometimes. And I've watched this in Formula 1 again, I've watched it in IRL, and you know, it's just one of those things that you know, you just, you have to, if you want to commit far enough out to make something happen, then it's kind of, you know, that's what we had to do. So again, I think it shows that our commitment to Kasey, because again, of all the things I've all ready said. He fits, he's got so much talent. We know Mark says, and I asked Mark point blank, "Do you want to go any further? Tell me, can you do more than 2011?" He said, "No, I cannot. I don't want to do any, a full season past 2011." So Kasey and I made this commitment and it rests on my shoulders.

Q: And finally, Kasey, is there any fear at all that the No. 9 car might become a R&D car or do you feel really comfortable that you can finish out the rest of the season as you are right now?

KASEY KAHNE: That it might become what?

Q: A test team, where they might give you experimental stuff to work out?

KASEY KAHNE: No, I don't have that fear. I feel like, you know, we have a great team and Richard Petty Motorsports wants to win races and the 9 guys can. So I think they're going to be behind us and we're going to work hard together and we're going to finish strong.

Q: Thank you, gentlemen.

Q: Yeah, real quick question, a follow up for you, Rick. And I know that Kasey talked about Budweiser. What's your relationship with Budweiser right now? Have you had discussions with them about moving the sponsorship over? It would seem to make sense, but I wonder if a, that makes sense after having, after you have had a chance to chat with them?

RICK HENDRICK: I've had a good relationship with those people over the years, but I've had no conversations. Again, nobody, I've talked to nobody yet.

Q: Thanks for clarifying.

Q: Hey, this question, the first part is for Kasey. Kasey, did RPM offer you an extension or offer you a contract to stay?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, they were one of the teams that you know, that I've been talking to about the future. And you know, I just felt like I've been there for six years, it'll be seven at the end of this one and I just wanted, I want to do something different. I want to make a bit of a change and see what it's like somewhere else. So that was my decision.

Q: The second part of the question is for Mr. Hendrick. You've made it clear that you don't know about Mark getting out of the car and Kasey getting in. So if Kasey does ride with Stewart-Haas, as you refer to them as a retail customer, that means that this driver would be on loan to Stewart-Haas. Do you think maybe you're setting a precedent there, something outside the box, as you say?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, yeah, that happens. And actually I've talked to Chip Ganassi and I had a conversation a while back and Penske and I have and I've see it happen in Formula 1. And again, it's, you know, it's, you're, it's not the kind of thing if you had your rathers, you'd rather everything line up together, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. And you know, so it could be.

Q: Okay. Thank you.

RICK HENDRICK: Sure.

Q: Mr. Hendrick, I'm not sure how NASCAR view this, so maybe this is something that you can clear up. I know that you're listed as the car owner of the 24 and the 88. So in NASCAR's eyes are you at your limit or not?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, the way that works, and my dad was actually the owner of the 5 car. And that's been that way since the inception, you know, the beginning of the, I'm sorry the 25 car. And then it became the 5 car. But NASCAR's rules are if you're in the same facility and you have the economic benefit, I'm not sure how all of it works, but I know that it's, you know, it would not qualify for us to have different ownership in the same building, and even though there are multiple owners.

Q: And then for Kasey, I heard an interview with you earlier this week, and you said this decision has been distracting you throughout the season. I was wondering now that the decision has been made are you able now to focus on the 9 or is there so much more that goes along with this that you're still going to be distracted throughout the season with it?

KASEY KAHNE: Actually, I haven't really been distracted. I've felt like I've you know, focused hard on the 9 and we've done a good job there. We've actually been really fast and, you know, in most of the races. We've had some things happen, some bad luck and also some things happen that were not good in the points. But we've, we won one race and came close at Atlanta. So we've been pretty good. I think what this does is it just, I just don't have to worry about, you know, I put a lot of time and effort and just thinking about the future. And I don't have to worry about that anymore. I have that done. And so now, I just focus on driving. But you know, I don't think it's affected me, I just think it's kind of a relief to get it over with.

Q: Okay, thanks.

JESSE ESSEX: Thank you, George. This concludes our teleconference. I appreciate the media's time today and wish everybody safe travels to Texas.

Q: And have you talked to anybody yet at RPM or Ford and do you expect to be locked out of any meetings or discussions about chassis or engine development moving, forward the rest of the year?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I don't know, I've definitely talked to RPM. I've talked to all the people I needed to talk to. And we're all on the same page as far as trying to finish strong, and working together and trying to do the right thing. And I have a lot of faith in the 9 guys, our whole Budweiser team. I have a lot of faith in Richard Petty Motorsports, and what they're doing right in working with Ralph Grayson (ph), Ralph Spinway (ph). I'm excited about the rest of the year and I think we can do some good stuff, and still make the chase if we can get our season turned around. So I'm looking forward to it. I don't know what's going to happen as far as myself and the shop, and how the meetings will work. But as of right now, I think everything will be just like it's been the first couple months for this season.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Kasey, when did this all start? When did you first start talking to Rick and how quickly did all this come together?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, the, you know, truthfully, it started, I don't know. It's been on my mind for a long time on what my future would hold, and what I would like to do. And I think as a race car driver, Hendrick Motorsports is one of the places that, you know, that you always dream of racing for. You dream of driving for Mr. Hendrick, and so, you know, I've thought about that for a long time, and where I want to go. But you know, it's been in the last, really the last couple months that we've kind of put this deal together and worked on it. And it's just, you know, when I talked to Mark Martin, and I, you know, learned a lot about the place from Mark and talked to him about things. And you know, he had a lot of really good advice. As well, Jimmie Johnson has helped me a lot over the last couple years with a lot of different things. And then, you know, they were all supportive of this too. So I just felt like, you know, it's a neat fit, it's a great fit. And I look forward to it.

Q: Did you have Hendrick in mind as where you could possibly want to land at the very beginning?

KASEY KAHNE: Beginning of what?

Q: This free agency period, or whenever you made up your mind that RPM's not going to be the place for you?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, like I said, it's a place where, you know, a race car driver, you know, if you have an opportunity to go there, you definitely need to look at it and think hard about, you know, what your future holds. And I didn't know at first. I didn't know if that would be a, if they would want me, or how all that works out. So I talked to all the teams. I had really good conversations with everybody, and really enjoyed all that learning about each team and each organization and the owners there. And this is just the one that worked out.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Thank you. Rick, we know you said earlier that it was your responsibility to find Kasey a ride for 2011. And we know that he starts with you in '12 and it goes through '15, but what about 2011 with Hendrick Motorsports, specifically? What's his contract status with your organization? Does he have one for '11 or no?

RICK HENDRICK: Yes, yes, he does. He has a contract.

Q: Okay. So that contract says then, that it's, you're going to find him a ride?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, it's my responsibility to get him in a position. Course, he'll have to, he'll agree to it, but it's a stop gap to get us to '12. And you know, that's just the commitment we made to each other, and if we've got to have a rough year, and I don't foresee it to be a rough year, but it's kind of a year of transition to get, to hopefully have him for five, six, ten years, then I was willing and he was willing to go that route.

Q: Wonderful. Thank you. Congratulations.

RICK HENDRICK: Thanks, sir.

Q: Actually, I was going to ask Rick the same question as Marty, but I'll ask Kasey a question. Just Kasey, can you just talk a little bit about, this is very, very early in the season and we still have 29 races left, plus a couple others with the team that you're with. Will you have to devote a lot of time to the Hendrick and 2011 stuff that you think may take away from your effort with in the long season that's still ahead?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, you know, that's another thing that I'm not real sure about how that's going to work out. Yet. Just because all this was thrown at us so quickly. You know, Marty Smith breaking that yesterday like he did, is just, there was a lot of little specifics that we hadn't got to yet, you know. And all I know for sure is I'm going to put in a lot of time at Richard Petty Motorsports this year and make sure that we finish off there. Put in the effort that I've put in for the last six years. And I want to win races.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Thank you. Kasey, this situation is sort of like knowing you're really going to get a big Christmas present, but Christmas is a year or two away. How tough is it going to be for you to be patient through this period knowing that no later than '12 you're going to be in really good cars?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, you know, I'm in good cars now. I know I'll be in good cars next year. So it's not, to me it's more of a relief to have this out of my mind. You know, I just get to focus on racing this year. I know where I'm headed in '11. I know where I'm headed in '12, at least who I'm working with, with Mr. Hendrick. You know, and I'm happy with that right now, and in the next couple months we figure out more, but I'm happy with where we're at right now, for sure.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Yeah, this is for both Rick and Kasey. Basically, what it seems like you're going to be doing then is next year, you'll start with a team and then in 2011 you'll start with another team. So you're kind of starting over twice in a two year period. Knowing how long it takes to build chemistry and all, it seems like a bit of a sacrifice to get to where you want to go. Is that, was that a lot of consideration for either one of you when you were making this decision?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, well David, with me, you know, it is and it's one of those things that you, you look at what the end results are. You look at the fact that here's a 29 year old, 30 year old man, now that's again, has won, you know, 11 races and sitting on 16 poles, and can really get the job done. And he's been through a lot of transition, and it hasn't been all on the same deal. And you know, he's got so much talent then if I have to wait, if I have to assign his deal or whatever we got to do to get us to that point, it's going to mean years down the road of stability in racing in this organization. And he's committed to the 9 car. He runs awful good over there. And he's going to go back to work driving that car, and we're going to figure out the interim deal and then we'll go full bore. And you know, it's just, to me it was worth it. Whatever I-- whatever amount of sacrifice or whatever you want to call it, or time and effort, because you don't have a Kasey Kahne that comes along every day that has the whole package that fits with our guys, that they like a lot, and I like him, too. And you know, it's just you don't have those come along all the time.

Q: Kasey?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, that's something that I thought about. You know, I think, you know, working with, you know, a crew chief and a team for a while, definitely, the communication definitely gets better. You understand each other better, and that's something that you have to, have to learn. But I'm also looking at the future, and looking at down the road, and I feel like, I feel like I can adapt pretty quickly. I've always been able to adapt pretty quickly to situations, whether it's good, bad or indifferent. You have to adapt as a race car driver, and I've felt like I've done a decent job at that over the years. And I'm going to have to adapt a little bit and that's just something I'm going to go through and I'm going to figure out how to do it the best I can and as quickly as I possibly can.

Q: Great. To follow up, is there a scenario, I guess Mark Martin, said this is the guy you need. Where you would ask Mark or Mark would even volunteer to step aside and be the guy to go over to Stewart-Haas so Kasey could move in that ride and not have to make that adjustment, or are you set and determined that he'll be in that car through 2011?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, Mark has said he wants to drive that car, and that's the way we're headed right now.

Q: Thanks a lot, guys.

Q: Thanks. Congratulations Rick and Kasey. You've touched on options, or you touched on what could happen or you don't know really what happened. What are the viable options for Kasey for 2011? Is it Stewart-Haas? Is it, I mean is there is another alliance or another place or is Kasey maybe running a minimum, not a full schedule, but a partial schedule in some way, shape or form with one of those other, those places? I mean, what are the, what are the options presented to you right now?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, we haven't, again, you know, I know you guys feel like we're stonewalling you and that's not, that's not the case. Marty's such a bloodhound that he, you know, he comes, the ink's not dry and he's out here reporting it. And we can't, there is no perfect scenario in this deal. I mean, there is just no way to say, this is what you're going to do. Because we don't, we're just barely into the 2010 year, and a lot of things change, a lot of things happen. But the commitment is there from Hendrick Motorsports to Kasey and from Kasey to us. We want to be together that bad that we're willing to say, okay, let's make, let's just, let's forget about, you know, trying to figure it all out right now. This is what we're going to do, and we'll figure it out later. And that's what we did. And we'll figure it out later. I mean, I'm just telling you, have not, we haven't talked to anyone in detail about what we, what could be done. If people have called, you know, saying, "Hey would you consider this?" So we're just, I think you know, what Kasey wants to do is go back to the track and get in that 9 car and give them everything he's got. And then I'm going to huddle with my guys and we're going to decide the best route and the options that are on the table. Again, to sit within the NASCAR guidelines and we'll all make the best decision and we'll move forward.

Q: Thank you, Rick.

RICK HENDRICK: Sir.

Q: Thank you. Rick, a couple questions for you. First of all, Jack Roush can be a vindictive person. He cut the string early on Kurt Busch and let him go. If that was the case, could you kind of move the program up faster for Kasey? And I guess, the second question, over at Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Gibson was able to bring his entire crew from DEI and, you know, not have to start fresh. He had the resources there. They had the relationship where they could kind of go forward. Is that, you know, could that be a situation or scenario that you see for, with Kasey Kahne in the future?

RICK HENDRICK: Again, you know, there are so any possibilities, they're just too, it's not fair to anyone to even speculate because we don't have, we don't have option a, b, c and d right now. We're just too fresh into the deal, and we've kind of decided, let's take a couple of days here and get our breath and then we'll go back at it. So you know, there are just, if we laid out ten options, there will be some more that'll pop up. So you know, we just have to wait and see.

Q: And to follow that up, you are going to be in a precarious position though, because where ever he does land, you're probably going to need you know, 50 to 60 guys to run that team that season. Where do they come from? And then what do you tell them after the final race of 2011?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, you, we don't know for sure that that's going to have to be 50 to 60 guys and that they'll, you know, we don't know any of that yet. There may be an opportunity that, that nobody here has even thought of yet. So you know, we just got to wait and see.

Q: Thank you, sir.

Q: Rick, I just wanted to ask you or try to pin you down so that there's no, we can't come back later and say maybe your words could have gone one way or the other. Is there, are you certain Kasey won't be in the 5 car next year?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, Jenna, I'll tell you, if, it would have to be Mark Martin's thing that he does not want to do what he told me he wanted to do. It's that simple.

Q: Okay. Okay, thank you.

RICK HENDRICK: Okay.

Q: Hi, Rick. My question is, will this unfold at Hendrick Motorsports again or could we possible see you do a deal like this again in the future, where you sign a driver and maybe have to hold them off for a couple years until a seat is available once again?

RICK HENDRICK: I think this is a unique situation. If you look at our guys, where we are right now, with all the years that we have on the contracts, I think once Kasey's in the car our stable is set. You know, there might be a development driver or it might be something else in a young guy, whatever, but I feel like once Kasey's in the seat of that 5 car, we're set for a pretty good amount of years. Probably, I'll probably retire before I need anybody else.

Q: You don't see this type of contract becoming the norm for your organization?

RICK HENDRICK: No, I, you know, you have to think a little bit outside the box sometimes. And I've watched this in Formula 1 again, I've watched it in IRL, and you know, it's just one of those things that you know, you just, you have to, if you want to commit far enough out to make something happen, then it's kind of, you know, that's what we had to do. So again, I think it shows that our commitment to Kasey, because again, of all the things I've all ready said. He fits, he's got so much talent. We know Mark says, and I asked Mark point blank, "Do you want to go any further? Tell me, can you do more than 2011?" He said, "No, I cannot. I don't want to do any, a full season past 2011." So Kasey and I made this commitment and it rests on my shoulders.

Q: And finally, Kasey, is there any fear at all that the No. 9 car might become a R&D car or do you feel really comfortable that you can finish out the rest of the season as you are right now?

KASEY KAHNE: That it might become what?

Q: A test team, where they might give you experimental stuff to work out?

KASEY KAHNE: No, I don't have that fear. I feel like, you know, we have a great team and Richard Petty Motorsports wants to win races and the 9 guys can. So I think they're going to be behind us and we're going to work hard together and we're going to finish strong.

Q: Thank you, gentlemen.

Q: Yeah, real quick question, a follow up for you, Rick. And I know that Kasey talked about Budweiser. What's your relationship with Budweiser right now? Have you had discussions with them about moving the sponsorship over? It would seem to make sense, but I wonder if a, that makes sense after having, after you have had a chance to chat with them?

RICK HENDRICK: I've had a good relationship with those people over the years, but I've had no conversations. Again, nobody, I've talked to nobody yet.

Q: Thanks for clarifying.

Q: Hey, this question, the first part is for Kasey. Kasey, did RPM offer you an extension or offer you a contract to stay?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, they were one of the teams that you know, that I've been talking to about the future. And you know, I just felt like I've been there for six years, it'll be seven at the end of this one and I just wanted, I want to do something different. I want to make a bit of a change and see what it's like somewhere else. So that was my decision.

Q: The second part of the question is for Mr. Hendrick. You've made it clear that you don't know about Mark getting out of the car and Kasey getting in. So if Kasey does ride with Stewart-Haas, as you refer to them as a retail customer, that means that this driver would be on loan to Stewart-Haas. Do you think maybe you're setting a precedent there, something outside the box, as you say?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, yeah, that happens. And actually I've talked to Chip Ganassi and I had a conversation a while back and Penske and I have and I've see it happen in Formula 1. And again, it's, you know, it's, you're, it's not the kind of thing if you had your rathers, you'd rather everything line up together, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. And you know, so it could be.

Q: Okay. Thank you.

RICK HENDRICK: Sure.

Q: Mr. Hendrick, I'm not sure how NASCAR view this, so maybe this is something that you can clear up. I know that you're listed as the car owner of the 24 and the 88. So in NASCAR's eyes are you at your limit or not?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, the way that works, and my dad was actually the owner of the 5 car. And that's been that way since the inception, you know, the beginning of the, I'm sorry the 25 car. And then it became the 5 car. But NASCAR's rules are if you're in the same facility and you have the economic benefit, I'm not sure how all of it works, but I know that it's, you know, it would not qualify for us to have different ownership in the same building, and even though there are multiple owners.

Q: And then for Kasey, I heard an interview with you earlier this week, and you said this decision has been distracting you throughout the season. I was wondering now that the decision has been made are you able now to focus on the 9 or is there so much more that goes along with this that you're still going to be distracted throughout the season with it?

KASEY KAHNE: Actually, I haven't really been distracted. I've felt like I've you know, focused hard on the 9 and we've done a good job there. We've actually been really fast and, you know, in most of the races. We've had some things happen, some bad luck and also some things happen that were not good in the points. But we've, we won one race and came close at Atlanta. So we've been pretty good. I think what this does is it just, I just don't have to worry about, you know, I put a lot of time and effort and just thinking about the future. And I don't have to worry about that anymore. I have that done. And so now, I just focus on driving. But you know, I don't think it's affected me, I just think it's kind of a relief to get it over with.

Q: Okay, thanks.

JESSE ESSEX: Thank you, George. This concludes our teleconference. I appreciate the media's time today and wish everybody safe travels to Texas.

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