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NASCAR's Silly Season kicks off early with Kahne

by Dave Grayson
Friday, April 16, 2010

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Kasey Kahne's wrecked car at Fontana this year
I look forward to NASCAR's annual silly season each and every year. The process generally starts in late May to early June and turns into a mega month challenge while trying to figure out who's switching driver seats, who will be sitting on top of a new pit box and what sponsor logo is going to pay for all of that movement.

Tuesday's major announcement, presented to us by ESPN.Com, regarding driver Kasey Kahne and Hendrick Motorsports frankly caught us all off guard. As we all know by now, Kahne signed a multiyear pact with Rick Hendrick that will have him in that prestigious operation until at least 2015. That also means there is now a major vacancy over at Richard Petty Motorsports.

Prior to that announcement Kahne, along with fellow Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick, shared the spotlight in the upcoming 2010 silly season. Both driver's contracts with their present teams were scheduled to end this year and each driver expressed reservations about remaining with their present teams in the past.

While the Kahne-Hendrick announcement literally had the element of surprise to it, at least we are left with a few unanswered questions to fuel the official start of the new silly season. Those questions include:

All four Hendrick rides are contractually staffed and funded for next year so what car will Kahne drive during 2011? The speculation with the most intelligence behind it says he will do a year in a Chevrolet fielded by Stewart Haas Racing which, as we all know, is considered to be a Hendrick satellite operation. It's has been reported that this question will be answered sometime in the next 90 days.


What is Budweiser, Kahne’s long time sponsor, going to do? It's well known that Budweiser really likes this driver and the professional relationship they have with him. It's only natural that they would want to find a way to remain with him. If the sponsor's contract is on the same time line as the driver's then moving to Hendrick Motorsports with the driver would be rather easy.

What becomes of Richard Petty Motorsports? No doubt about it, this is a huge loss for George Gillette and Richard Petty. Kahne is the flag ship for their operation. Replacing him and a major sponsor will not be easy. On a brighter note team drivers A J Allmendinger and Paul Menard seem to be hitting their stride but it could take another one to two full seasons before they hit the level of a major driving star like Kahne. I'm already wondering if Casey Mears has emailed his resume to King Richard Petty.

This move to Hendrick Motorsports will absolutely launch Kasey Kahne into the ranks of NASCAR super stardom and that raises the question: what about Danica Patrick? How does this impact her eventual transition to NASCAR? Did anyone consider her feelings? Does anyone believe that she will be willing to share the role of "I'm the most beautiful person in the garage" with Kahne?

Did anyone clear any of this with the SPEED Channel's Jimmy Spencer? If "Spence" got caught off guard with this news like the rest of us then expect the next edition of his television show, "What's The Deal?" to get a little harsh and ugly.

We all know that any NASCAR silly season rumors are a combination of the extremely possible perfectly blended with the totally absurd. So, if we're starting silly season sooner than expected then it's time to play the early bird edition of the popular game "WHAT IF."

WHAT IF DALE EARNHARDT JR GROWS INCREASINGLY FRUSTRATED WITH LIVING LIFE IN THE FISH BOWL AND RESIGNS FROM HIS #88 RIDE?

First off it would give Kasey Kahne a place to sit in 2011. Dale Jr could retire into private life as a bartender at one of the lucrative Whiskey River Clubs that he owns. I'm thinking that a senior bartender in a swanky joint like that probably makes huge tips every night.

But the reality of the matter states Earnhardt just started the third season of a five year contract with Hendrick Motorsports. He may be rapidly approaching the second anniversary of his last Sprint Cup win, but he's still the sport's most popular driver and is still capable of bringing in a lot of advertising dollars on the quarter panels of his car.

WHAT IF JEFF GORDON ANNOUNCED HIS RETIREMENT AND HIS INTENT TO STAY HOME TO PLAY THE ROLE OF "MR MOM"?

The reality here is the fact that It actually wasn't that long ago that Gordon, soon to be 39 years old, made some comments about maybe hanging up the helmet around age 40. But those comments were made in the midst of pain from a back injury. Treatment has been instituted since that time and his back is much better. He's already making generic comments about 40 and beyond which would be very easy to do. After all, he has a "for life" contract with Rick Hendrick.

WHAT IF KASEY KAHNE SPENDS THE 2011 SEASON DRIVING A BUDWEISER TRUCK COMPLETE WITH A VIDEO CREW FOLLOWING HIS EVERY DELIVERY?

A move of this nature could easily be turned into one of those often weird, but somehow lucrative, reality television programs. But the problem with this concept lies in the fact that their probably aren't enough supermarkets or bars in the entire country capable of purchasing enough Budweiser products to cover Kahne’s salary.

WHAT IF KASEY KAHNE SPENT THE 2011 SEASON HELPING START AND PARK TEAMS?

He could take turns each week driving for these S&P teams and help them raise tire and travel money for the next race. The reality check here is the fact that a move like this would make NASCAR want to seriously take an investigative look at the start and park situation once and for all.

Happy silly season race fans and let the games begin.

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