'Silly Season' gets off to an early start

Officials with Richard Petty Motorsports announced Tuesday that Kasey Kahne, their No. 1 driver, has signed an agreement to race for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.

Only seven races are complete in the 2010 season and drivers are already jumping from team to team.

Obviously Kahne and Hendrick would have preferred to have kept their agreement hush-hush, but RPM wanted to let the world know. Angry remarks by a jilted lover? Who knows. But it is big news.

Does this mean somebody is leaving Hendrick Motorsports after 2011? A team is only allowed to have four entries and Hendrick already fields cars for Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Some would think Kahne will replace Martin, who cut back to a shortened schedule a few years ago but returned full-time and almost won the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship last year. But could it be another driver in Hendick's stable moving on or out -- after 2011? That leaves Johnson, Gordon or Earnhardt open to the speculation. Not likely.

It could also mean that a satellite operation of Hendrick Motorsports, perhaps Stewart-Haas Racing, will field a car for Kahne. They already have entries for Tony Stewart and last week's winner, Ryan Newman. Sponsorship will be key, but apparently the Budweiser sponsorship at RPM expires this season. Perhaps they will want to move with Kahne?

NASCAR's "Silly Season," the time of year where rumors run rampant about drivers hopping from team to team, used to start in September and October. Now apparently it starts in April. Two years early.

We're going to need a souvenir program to keep up.