Kenny Francis, crew chief of Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 9 Ford, will join Kasey Kahne at Red Bull Racing next season, according to a report from ESPN. Both Kahne and Francis comfirmed the news after Sunday’s Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
Kahne signed a contract with Hendrick Motorsports for the 2012 Sprint Cup season. But, because HMS had a full stable of drivers for 2011, Kahne signed on with RBR for the 2011 season. In 2012, he will move to HMS.
It seems that Francis will move to HMS with Kahne, though RBR sources would not confirm that. They indicated that he could stay with RBR beyond 2011, but that seems doubtful.
In September, I wrote that I thought that Francis would move to HMS with Kahne. They have been together since 2005, and have won 10 races and made the Chase twice in that timeframe.
If he does move to HMS in 2012, there’s a good chance Alan Gustafson will move from the team’s No. 5 Chevy to the No. 88 and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last season, when Earnhardt Jr and crew chief Tony Eury Jr we having problems, there were rumors that Rick Hendrick considered moving Gustafson to the No. 88 and Eury Jr to the No. 5. I wrote:
While those reports were denied, there is a good chance they were actually considered. And, if that’s the case, Hendrick had to think that the pairing of Gustafson and Jr would be productive, or he wouldn’t have considered it.
And, I can’t imagine there’s a reason — if Hendrick considered pairing the two back then — that he wouldn’t try it in 2012, assuming the team’s performance continues on the track it is on.