Monday, October 18, 2010

Tensions Rising Between Kahne, RPM

Was Kasey Kahne sick Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, or simply sick of driving for Richard Petty Motorsports?

That's the $64,000 question this week, after Kahne declined to hop back into his Budweiser Ford after crashing on lap 124. Kahne claimed to be suffering from flu-like symptoms, but his refusal to return to competition after repairs were made prompted one unnamed team member to question his commitment.

“I'm not going to say names, but I was told that I need to start doing my part," said Kahne, who gave way to relief driver J.J. Yeley Saturday night, but was able to compete in his Kasey Kahne Foundation five-kilometer charity race the following day. "(That) is what one guy told me last night after the race. I can't control the issues I've had this year. I don't know how many parts I've broke. I'm doing my part. I just need the car. I work as hard as anybody out there."

Kahne admitted that frustration with recurring brake issues played a role in his decision not to return to the track. "I lost it," he said. "I came into the race thinking we had a shot to win. We were a little bit tight, but still actually passed cars and really felt good. And then boom, my brakes are gone. It's not like you have half-brakes, like you can pump them. Your foot goes to the floor. It bottoms out. It's a joke."

He said he vomited after exitting the car Saturday, and did not feel obligated to climb back into a sub-par race car while ill.

Kahne said his brakes have failed three times this season and twice in the last three races, adding that repeated complaints to team management have gone unanswered. He blamed the issue on RPM's choice of brake fluid, saying the product causes premature brake fade and does not allow drivers to cool and regain their brakes during a race. He admitted, however, that no other Richard Petty Motorsports or Roush Fenway Racing driver has experienced similar problems.

"I can’t control the issues I’ve had this year," said Kahne. "I don’t know how many parts I’ve broken, how many shifter handles, control arms, brakes. If I really thought about it, I could come up with all kinds of stuff."

Kahne is now winless in his last 31 starts and has dropped out of the Top-20 in championship points. Clearly, the remainder of the season will be a race to see whether he runs out of races before running out of patience. All parties have done an admirable job pf holding things together in the months since Kahne revealed that he will leave RPM at season's end for a one-year stint at Red Bull Racing and an eventual ride in Rick Hendrick's #5 Chevrolet.

In the end, though, Kahne's "lame duck" run at Richard Petty Motorsports appears destined to end badly.

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