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Kasey Kahne to detour on way to Hendrick

by Monte Dutton

FORT WORTH, Texas — Kasey Kahne is headed to Hendrick Motorsports, but it’s kind of complicated.

Kahne, 30, has already driven for three teams in the Sprint Cup Series — without ever moving. He began with Evernham Motorsports, which became Gillett Evernham, which became Richard Petty Motorsports. All along, Kahne drove No. 9, but he started in a Dodge and this year by Monte Dutton changed to a Ford.

Considered one of the sport’s more talented drivers, it’s no surprise that Kahne is moving to Hendrick Motorsports once his contract at RPM expires at the end of the season, but he’s not moving there directly, or at least, that’s the current spin.

Next year Kahne will drive for a team not yet announced — Stewart Haas Racing, a Hendrick satellite of sorts, is most often mentioned — while Mark Martin completes his contractual commitment at Hendrick. Kahne will not actually join Hendrick proper until 2012. Or so it is currently assumed.

Kahne is willing to wait a year, apparently, in order to join the team that produced the top three finishers — Jimmie Johnson, Martin and Jeff Gordon — in last year’s Chase.

“To be in the position I’m in now and know where I’m going to be in 2012, to have the opportunity with Rick Hendrick and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, to me, it’s an unbelievable opportunity. I can’t wait to get that started.”

Beyond the announcement of Kahne joining Hendrick in 2012, little is known. Martin has declared he isn’t retiring. Tony Stewart has said he has made no arrangements to have Kahne join him and Ryan Newman, and other scenarios (JR Motorsports, also Hendrick aligned, moving up from Nationwide to Cup being one) are similarly denied or, at least, played down. No one knows whether or not Kahne will take his crew chief, Kenny Francis, along with him — wherever that is.

“I’ll work through it with Mr. Hendrick and figure out exactly what we need to do that makes the most sense,” said Kahne.

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (nascar.rbma.com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_thisweek@yahoo.com. ‘ 2010 King Features Syndicate

Kasey Kahne announced that he will head to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, complicating a team roster that includes Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)

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