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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There's no guarantee Kasey Kahne will succeed at Hendrick Motorsports

Over the past 12 hours, if you had been watching and reading all the media coverage, you might think Kasey Kahne has just won his ticket to contending for championships by signing with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the #5 car starting in 2012.

But there’s no guarantee you’d be right.

Let’s break it down.

For starters, I recognize that:

1. Hendrick Motorsports is the best and most dominating team in NASCAR

2. It’s a huge leap up for Kahne from Richard Petty Motorsports

3. There is much reason to believe he will do much better than his current ride at RPM, and he has most certainly hit the lottery with this signing with Hendrick.

But to say it’s a guarantee that Kahne will thrive at Hendrick Motorsports is a stretch. Let’s look at some other points.

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. … he won a lot of races at DEI prior to coming to Hendrick. Since arriving, he has one once, and it was on fuel mileage. He’s driving Hendrick equipment just like Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, but not winning like them. (In fact, some weeks he isn't even close to the front.)

2. Many other drivers have been in Hendrick rides and not thrived, going all the way back to people like Ricky Craven. Again, just being at a good team doesn’t mean Kahne will win and battle for the Cup.

3. We don’t know what his crew chief situation will be yet. And that’s a huge part of whether you will succeed … just ask Dale Jr.

Overall, the general talk is accurate. Kahne made the best move possible (though 2011 is still up in the air, with Kahne possibly driving for Stewart-Haas or another Hendrick affiliated team). But I have to say the volume is a bit high on the expectations already.

Yes, Kasey is a talented driver, no one questions that. Is he a superstar-level talent? That remains to be seen. To me, he’s been hit-or-miss so far in his career and this move, starting in 2012, will be the true test of whether he measures up to the Jimmie Johnsons of the world.

I’d say the odds are high that Kahne will live up to expectations, but I wouldn’t bet your life savings on it. The struggles of the #88 team are enough reason to have pause before declaring a driver will run up front each week just because they have arrived at Hendrick Motorsports.

(Note: Stay tuned for more reaction to the Kahne/Hendrick situation)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kahne has driven crap for most of his career & still managed to win races & contend for the cup. Mind you he has not been top form like HMS but he has not been just a field filler either. With all the distractions that the #9 Team has had to contend with & still show their talent I would be willing to bet that Kahne will "rise" when racing in Hendrick equipment.

April 15, 2010 at 10:24 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is my hope that Tony tells RH "No". Phoenix says "No". & that only leaves putting KK in the 25/88 and RH buys out Jr.s contract. Then Jr. could go back to the #8 or RCR, & not in the #3.

April 15, 2010 at 3:24 PM 

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