Kahne to rejoin manufacturer that sued him

September, 11, 2009
RICHMOND, Va. -- You never know what the future holds.

Kasey Kahne will drive for the manufacturer that once sued him. Richard Petty Motorsports is merging with Yates Racing to run Fords next season.

That makes Kahne a Ford driver in 2010, an oddity that proves that the cliché about never burning your bridges is a good idea in NASCAR.

"I wasn't a big fan, and they weren't a big fan of me," Kahne said Friday about Ford officials. "Time heals, and I think some of those [Ford] people are gone that caused all that. They have new people there."

Kahne was driving Fords in his Nationwide Series days, including a year with Robert Yates Racing in 2002. But he switched to Dodge when he signed with Ray Evernham to race in Cup as a rookie in 2004.

Ford officials said Kahne violated his contract and filed a lawsuit. An out-of-court settlement was reached, allowing Kahne to end his Ford deal and join Evernham's team, which became RPM this season.

So does Kahne expect Ford officials to welcome him back with open arms?

"I think it will be a bit different because of the way our relationship ended last time," Kahne said. "We'll have to figure out how to get through that and go on with it.

"What Ford's done in racing has been really good with Roush and Yates over the years. I'm happy with Dodge and what we've done here, but it will be a bit of a change next year."

Kahne is in good position to make the Chase, ranking sixth in the standings after his victory this past weekend at Atlanta. He's 96 points ahead of the Chase cutoff spot entering the final regular-season race Saturday night at Richmond.

Kahne hopes to give Richard Petty his first Chase driver in his final season with Dodge.

RPM's merger with Yates means it becomes part of the alliance with Roush Fenway Racing. The two teams share an engine program. Kahne bristled when asked whether the new arrangement made RPM a test team for Roush.

"I don't really know how it all works out, but we're definitely not their test team," Kahne said. "We have too many good people here. We're going there to work with Roush, help Roush, and Roush is going to be a part of Richard Petty Motorsports, or however all that works out."

All the details of the merger haven't been worked out, but RPM driver Reed Sorenson and Yates' Bobby Labonte are the odd men out. Kahne, Elliott Sadler and A.J. Allmendinger will join Yates driver Paul Menard to form the four-car operation.

"I think it's going to be beneficial for RPM," Kahne said. "I think we're going to help them out, too. We have some things that I feel are better than Roush-Yates have. I think their engines are really strong, and they have a lot of people to work hard on both programs. If we work hard, it could be a pretty cool deal." The move leaves Kahne and RPM in an awkward spot with Dodge when the Chase begins. Will it hinder Kahne's playoff run?

"I have a good relationship with Dodge," Kahne said. "It's not going to hurt us in the context of support. They still want to win races. I want to win races, and we want to run as well in the Chase as we can.

"Hopefully it doesn't affect us. It could, but I hope it doesn't. We've won some races and feel like we can win some more races before it's over."

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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