Hendrick announces Kahne for 2012
|By Diego Mejia||Wednesday, April 14th 2010, 15:24 GMT|
Hendrick Motorsports has confirmed that Kasey Kahne will drive the team's #5 car from 2012, but his ride for next year is still to be determined.
The 30-year old will join Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr in NASCAR's top squad when Mark Martin leaves the four-car outfit at the end of next year.
Kahne's contract ties him to the team until the 2015 season, leaving all seats at the team filled at least through the end of 2012.
"In Kasey, we saw an opportunity to cement a big piece of our future," said team owner Rick Hendrick. "He possesses incredible talent and a tremendous dedication to his craft, and we know he'll be a great fit within our company.
"Kasey has earned the respect of his future team-mates by the way he's handled himself on and off the racetrack, and we know he'll be a contributor to the success of Hendrick Motorsports for many years to come. To have someone of his calibre join our team is an unbelievable opportunity for us."
Having won 11 Sprint Cup Series races in just over six seasons since he joined NASCAR's top level, Kahne has only twice been part of the championship play-off. He believes his move to Hendrick will allow him to make the next step and contend for the series title.
"I have a comfort level with Mr Hendrick, my future team-mates and the culture of the organisation," said Kahne. "For me, it's the right fit on every level, and I think it gives me a great chance to win races and compete for championships.
"Determining the next step in my career has been an important process, and I'm excited and relieved to have the decision made and announced. Now it's my responsibility to put all of my energy into winning races and having a successful 2010 with my current team and our sponsors."
Kahne says that there is still some uncertainty about what car and for which team he will be driving next year, although it is clear that he intends to compete through the whole season. Given NASCAR's four-car limit, Hendrick Motorsports cannot put him in a fifth car.
Stewart Haas Racing, which uses Hendrick chassis and engines, remains favourite to run Kahne in 2011 by adding a third car alongside those of Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman.
"If this opportunity was going to happen, I knew having some unanswered questions would be part of the scenario at this stage," Kahne added. "Hendrick Motorsports has a commitment to Mark Martin that they want to fulfill, and that's important. It's part of what attracts me to the team."
Kahne is set to be the youngest driver at Hendrick Motorsports when he joins it in 2012 at 31 years of age, in what will be his ninth year of Sprint Cup competition.