Hendrick: Keselowski could run for JR

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Rick Hendrick doesn't blame Brad Keselowski for moving forward with a deal to drive full-time in the Sprint Cup series for Penske Racing next season.

He actually encouraged him to look elsewhere when it became apparent there wasn't a place for him at Hendrick Motorsports.

"I've said all along I want him to have the best opportunity, and we have several options, but the one thing I told him is, 'Look, if you decide to do something different I want you to have the best opportunity, and whoever you go to drive for just tell them don't get pissed off when I come after you.' "

Asked if he hated losing Keselowski to another manufacturer Hendrick said, "I won't lose him forever."

But Hendrick didn't shut the door on Keselowski staying with the JR Motorsports team he co-owns with Dale Earnhardt Jr. even though that would mean driving a Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series and a Dodge in Cup.

As late as last week Keselowski said he wanted to continue driving for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series for a long time.

"Some things have to happen in there, and I really can't comment on that right now because I don't know exactly what the deal is," Hendrick said. "You never say that it can't happen so ... it could happen."

That could work because Penske already is committed to 23-year-old Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide Series.

Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, however, recently told ESPN's Marty Smith there was no way Keselowski could drive for JR Motorsports if he signed with another manufacturer in the Cup.

Sources told ESPN.com on Friday that Keselowski had reached a deal to drive the No. 12 currently occupied by David Stremme at Penske next season.

Keselowski said after winning at Talladega during the spring in a Phoenix Racing car using HMS engines and chassis that his first option was to remain tied with Hendrick. With no open seats at HMS until at least 2011 and Stewart-Haas Racing not willing to put him in a third car he began exploring other opportunities.

Penske Racing, which tried to sign Keselowski last season, apparently became the best option.

"He's been waiting forever," Hendrick said before Saturday night's Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. "We had lots of things we were trying to work on and it's just complicated with the economy the way it is. If we can't be a part of something that's as good as what he can get, then it's not fair for him to wait forever."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.