Kasey Kahne has signed a contract to drive the #5 for Hendrick Motorsports beginning in 2012. What I don't get is why Rick Hendrick would sign Kasey to a contract without a ride for 2011, and for that matter why Kasey would sign such a contract. Now, don't get me wrong. I completely understand why Kasey would want to drive for HMS. Who wouldn't? They're the dominant team with the best equipment, and they've won the Championship the past four years. Still, there's NASCAR's four car limit, and unless Mark Martin retires, Rick is looking for a ride for Kasey, and I don't see Kasey riding around for a full season in a Nationwide car.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that Rick will park Kasey at Stewart/Haas for the 2011 season. Somehow, I just can't see Tony babysitting Kasey for a year. Then again, the prospect does give Tony a tremendous advantage at the negotiating table .
I have to wonder if there's something going on at Hendrick that they've so far managed to keep a tight lid on. What could that possibly be, you ask? Here's what I'm thinking. Two scenarios come to mind.
1.) Jeff Gordon retires at the end of the 2010 season. Mark Martin would finish his HMS contract in the #24, thus freeing the #5 for Kasey. It's plausible. Jeff's physical condition was a major storyline of 2009, and with the birth of his second child, he might just be looking for other opportunities.
2.) Chad Knaus is a man without a contract. His previous contract expired last August. Now, there's no way in you-know-where that Knaus leaves HMS for another team, BUT, there is speculation, that Chad is more than ready to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Ray Evernham, and form his own Cup team. I have no doubt that should Chad choose to move in this direction, Rick Hendrick would provide chassis, engines, and any other support needed.
You can understand why Rick would want to keep either of these possibilities under wraps as long as possible- especially the Knaus scenario. Trust me, the news of Knaus leaving to form his own team, and thus splitting with Jimmie, would send shock waves through the NASCAR garages.
Anyway, that what's been going through my mind .