Kahne joins Red Bull Racing early

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.


Kasey Kahne will drive the No. 83 Toyota for Red Bull Racing beginning this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

Troubled legacy?

Sources say Richard Petty Motorsports in financial crunch, may not run past Martinsville.

Kahne had already signed a contract to race for Red Bull in 2011, but recent circumstances at Richard Petty Motorsports appear to have expedited the driver's departure.

After Kahne’s brakes failed on Lap 124 at Charlotte Motor Speedway last weekend, he refused to continue behind the wheel of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford. J.J. Yeley completed the race for the team.

Richard Petty Motorsports put out a statement late Wednesday night that Kahne has been released from his ride.

Thursday morning, as had reported, Red Bull officials confirmed that Kahne will drive for that organization in the final five races of this year.

“With our agreement only being for one year, there is a great sense of urgency to get started on 2011,” said Jay Frye, Red Bull Racing’s vice president and general manager. “With Kasey coming earlier than planned, we are excited to have a five-race head start.”

Aric Almirola, who was originally pegged to drive the No. 83 this weekend, will now fill Kahne's seat at RPM. While there has been speculation that Marcos Ambrose would move early from his current ride at JTG Daugherty Racing to start his next stint with RPM, a JTGD spokesperson confirmed that the driver will "finish out the season as originally planned."

Team sponsor Budweiser released the following statement:

“This matter was between driver and team. Though it marks a premature end to our on-track relationship with Kasey, the Budweiser car is a fixture in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and we look forward to finishing out the season with another driver behind the wheel.”

Kahne’s Sprint Cup career began with Ray Evernham in 2004 at Daytona. In his third start, Kahne put the No. 9 Dodge on the pole. His first Cup win came the following spring at Richmond. Kahne won a career-high six races in 2006, qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup and finished eighth.

The following year Evernham formed a partnership with George Gillett in August and the organization was renamed Gillett Evernham Motorsports. In 2009, the company was rebranded Richard Petty Motorsports and Evernham became further removed from the fold.

While Kahne qualified for the Chase last year, he has never regained the magic that existed under Evernham’s leadership. He remained distracted into this season since his contract was expiring at the end of the year. An announcement leaked in April that Kahne would drive for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, but he was still under the pressure of finding a home for next season.

On Aug. 10, Red Bull released a statement that Kahne would pilot one of its cars in 2011. However, as a lame duck at RPM, Kahne just hasn’t had the chemistry that existed in the past. He is 21st in the points standings, his worst showing since his sophomore season.

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