Who will be out at Red Bull, now that Kahne is coming?
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Kasey Kahne will get wings for one year when he drives a Red Bull Racing Toyota in 2011.
The shock announcement of the week came when it was announced that Rick Hendrick had brokered a deal to let Kasey Kahne be on load to the Red Bull team to drive a Toyota in 2011, before coming to Hendrick to take over the #5 Chevy in 2012.
It took most of us by surprise, as we were all wondering which Chevy team Hendrick would place Kahne at for the year … turns out Chevy wasn’t in the cards, though I don’t think brand loyalty is really Kahne’s lawsuit (There’s that whole issue of bolting from Ford to Dodge early in his career … plus he drove Dodges in 2009, Fords in 2010, will drive Toyota in 2011 and will drive Chevys in 2012. Might as well throw a Buick or Oldsmobile in there for kicks.)
This whole deal shows just what kind of weight Hendrick has in the sport. He could probably broker a deal like this for any driver, in any car make, if given enough time. (Kahne’s deal wasn’t exactly an overnight setup.)
I still think it will be a kind of throwaway year for Kahne, as he won’t have the full Hendrick support he will get in 2012, but at least he’ll be racing for an established team.
So now that Kahne’s future is known, another couple drivers are on the hot seat. That would be Brian Vickers, currently recovering from serious health issues and awaiting a doctor’s OK to return next season, and Scott Speed, who has fizzled out after a decent start to the year. Both guys have traditionally had big support from the Red Bull team, but I’ll be curious to see who gets to play second fiddle to Kahne in 2011. My money’s on Vickers, who is determined to make a comeback and will do whatever is necessary to do it. He has shown he can win, and the team should hold on to him if he’s healthy.
Speed, though, might be in trouble. He’s been with Red Bull for many years, going back to his Formula 1 days, but he hasn’t exactly been impressing on the track this season. If he doesn’t start to pick up his efforts as the year comes to a close, the team’s hospitality may run out. It’s possible they could go to a three-car effort, but with so many struggles now that they are at 2 cars, it might be a pretty tough undertaking to make a 3-car team work.
Martin to Red Bull in 2012?
Remember those rumors a little while ago about Mark Martin going to the Red Bull team? Well, the way I see it, it might happen after all, just a year down the road.
Looking into the future, I can almost see it now. As 2011 is winding down and Kahne prepares for the end of his short time in the Red Bull machine, and Mark prepares to exit the #5 car at year’s end, a deal will be announced.
When Kahne comes to Hendrick, Martin could easily replace him in the Red Bull machine. I’m sure the Red Bull team would be more than welcoming of a veteran like Mark who can still race, and I fully expect this scenario to unfold in the coming year.
It’s so far off at this point that anything can happen, but I think this just makes sense. In fact, it may have been agreed upon already, behind the scenes, as the negotiations for Kahne’s deal were being made. Mark my words, as this is looking good in my crystal ball.
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