Sports

NASCAR's Kahne finding new home with Hendrick Motorsports

San Francisco Giants centerfielder Aaron Rowand shows Kasey Kahne how to swing a bat Tuesday. - Photo credit Mike Doran
San Francisco Giants centerfielder Aaron Rowand shows Kasey Kahne how to swing a bat Tuesday.
— image credit: Photo credit Mike Doran

Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday evening that beginning with the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Enumclaw's Kasey Kahne will drive the No. 5 Chevrolets of Hendrick Motorsports after signing a long-term contract with the organization.

Mark Martin, 51, the current driver of Hendrick Motorsports' No. 5 team, will complete the 2010 and 2011 seasons. When Kahne takes over in 2012, he will join teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"In Kasey, we saw an opportunity to cement a big piece of our future," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a release posted on the team's Web site. "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 teammates 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 caliber join our team is an unbelievable opportunity for us."

The announcement came shortly after Richard Petty Motorsports announced Kahne informed the team he will not renew his contract at the conclusion of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Kahne, driver the No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion, has been with RPM since entering NASCAR's premier series in 2004.

"Kasey is a very talented driver and I have enjoyed watching him race. We all wish him nothing but the best and hope he succeeds in anything he chooses to do," said team owner Richard Petty in a press release.

"Drivers like Kasey Kahne are the very reason we got into this sport. Kasey has helped us get to where we are today," George Gillett, owner of Richard Petty Motorsports said. "We wish him well in his future however we have the rest of this season to race together and we're looking forward to a successful remainder of the year."

Kahne, who turned 30 on April 10, is an 11-time Sprint Cup race winner. Now in the midst of his seventh full-time season at NASCAR's elite level, he also has earned 16 pole positions, 43 top-five finishes and 79 top-10s on the tour.

"I have a comfort level with Mr. Hendrick, my future teammates and the culture of the organization," said Kahne, in an on-line statement which noted his contract with Hendrick Motorsports will run through the 2015 Sprint Cup season. "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."

Although 2012 and beyond has been solidified, Kahne is not scheduled to drive a Hendrick Motorsports entry in 2011 due to NASCAR's four-car limit. While who he will race for has not yet been determined, Kahne intends to drive a full Sprint Cup Series schedule next season.

"If this opportunity was going to happen, I knew having some unanswered questions would be part of the scenario at this stage," Kahne acknowledged. "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."

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