An unusually quiet NASCAR ‘Silly Season’ was flipped upside down late yesterday when it was announced that Richard Petty MotorSports and driver of the #9 Budweiser Ford, Kasey Kahne have parted ways.
Kahne had been plagued by multiple mechanical failures over the last three races that culminated in an outburst over the radio during the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway last Saturday night when the brakes on the #9 went out. Kahne did not return to the car when the crew had readied it to complete the race, citing illness and nausea. J.J. Yeley took over and finished the race, but Kahne was still able to run a 5k for charity the next day. Speculation that Kahne and Richard Petty MotorSports would part ways was rampant this week.
Richard Petty MotorSports will tag Aric Amirola to fill the seat this weekend. Hopefully Amirola will be able to show his stuff as he does so often in the Camping World Truck Series where he is currently second in championship points. He has not quite been able to get it done behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup Car. Amirola was originally scheduled to pilot the #83 Red Bull Toyota this weekend, but in what seems like a deal that was made before the announcement, Kahne will go over to Red Bull where he was already scheduled to drive for 2011 before switching to the #5 Hendrick Chevy in 2012.
Amirola is only scheduled to fill in at RPM this week at Martinsville. This leaves the remaining four races of the season to fill for the #9 Ford. Speculation and common sense says that this is an opportunity for several drivers and teams to get a leg up on the 2011 Sprint Cup season and work out new relationships before running for the championship.
If things work out right, which they usually do in NASCAR Sprint Cup when everybody benefits, we could see Marcos Ambrose released from the #47 Toyota to get behind the wheel of the #9 at Richard Petty MotorSports. He will drive the #9 full time in 2011. This would open up the #47 Toyota at JTG/Daugherty and allow Bobby Labonte to slide behind the wheel of the car he has been signed to drive for 2011.
While this would benefit all the drivers and teams involved, the seats left empty for the rest of 2010 would be the #71 and #09 which Labonte has been jumping between throughout the season. Amirola could surely fill one of those rides, but only time will tell. One thing is for sure, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Silly Season has broken out in full force.