Kahne puts Petty team on notice ... improve or he might be gone
That’s the question surrounding Kahne, the most high profile driver at Richard Petty Motorsports, as rumors swirl that he might be interesting in going elsewhere … either after 2010, when his contract expires, or even sooner if possible.
Kahne tried to dispel those rumors last week at Phoenix, but he didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of his team.
He started out with the politically correct answer, saying he’d honor his contract, which expires after the 2010 season.
"I'm definitely not exploring other options," he said. "I have another year with Richard Petty Motorsports. The Gilletts have been good to me since I came here. I made a commitment to them to race through 2010, so I'll do that for sure."
Then it gets dicey, as he added this little caveat.
"I've told them from the start that if we can get our cars to where they're right and we're competitive with the best teams out here then I don't know why I'd ever want to move from that company," Kahne said. "For me to leave, I wouldn't want to, but at the same time I want to get a chance in some really good equipment too. We're working on that. If we get there, I'll stay with RPM for a long time."
So let’s just read between the lines and examine what Kahne really wanted to say. You don’t say, “I want to get a chance in some really good equipment,” if you’re happy where you are. While I believe Kahne is a man of his word as far as honoring the contract, it’s clear that he’s not happy.
The Petty team has been put on notice by its biggest star. He straight-up said that if his cars aren’t up to snuff with the Hendricks and Roushes of the world by the time his contract is up, he won’t be around.
The RPM team has had its ups and downs this year, and Kahne is right to want the best equipment. But it’s pretty rare to see a driver call his team out in this manner in today’s NASCAR. I give Kahne credit for speaking his mind, as most drivers probably wouldn’t have said what he said, even if they were equally frustrated.
Kahne went on to say he hopes the team can improve the quality of its equipment and he won’t have to make a switch, but I believe that he knows the #9 car probably won't be at the level of the #48 car by the end of 2010.
Where would Kahne go if he left? That would be very interesting. Kahne is a talented driver who has shown in the past he can win a lot of races if he has the proper equipment. But there is a limited number of spots at the top teams.
The Hendrick stable seems pretty well set for a while, and lately the Richard Childress cars are far from top contenders. Perhaps he could bump out a Roush driver, or be a fourth Joe Gibbs driver?
Things can change fast in the Cup series, so I’m sure all this will be explored all next season as Kahne ponders his decision. He will be a highly courted free agent, and unless RPM can step up its game immensely, it will likely lose Kahne as a driver.