NASCAR: Kahne extension shouldn’t alter Chase Elliott’s future timeline

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This morning, Hendrick Motorsports has confirmed Kasey Kahne for a three-year extension through 2018. His contract had been set to expire at the end of 2015.

This is likely to be one of several contract-related stories you’ll soon hear or read about with Hendrick, in a year that has already featured several partner pieces of news (Nationwide upping with the 88 team, 3M moving to the 24 team).

First off, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is good on a multi-year deal. The 88 team likely will need to fill the races that were covered by the National Guard next season – the team hasn’t publicly confirmed its exit but did well earlier this year to prepare for the possibility, and this was before the National Guard issued its own statement of withdrawal – but other than that things should be good to go.

Jimmie Johnson is next to get sorted. “Six-time” is good through 2015, and you figure he would be next in line for an extension. The question you have with JJ is whether Hendrick would extend it to a lifetime-type contract as is currently the case with Jeff Gordon.

Which then brings us to Gordon, and where he fits in with Hendrick protege and Nationwide (now XFINITY Series) champion Chase Elliott, who’s only 18 but of course is destined to move up to Cup – eventually.

Gordon’s new 3M deal is locked in through 2017. Other partners including Axalta, Drive to End Hunger, Panasonic, and Pepsi are all part of the 24 team’s partner lineup.

The question really is how long Gordon wants to drive full-time, because the 24 car is earmarked for Elliott down the road. According to Gordon during a Twitter chat, that could be several years.

The car number doesn’t appear as though it would switch to the 9 – as Elliott has run in Nationwide/XFINITY – as Richard Petty Motorsports’ Sammy Johns shot down that notion when announcing Sam Hornish Jr. for next year and beyond.

So where can Elliott fit? He’ll run a full XFINITY season next year and try to do what has been done three times in the last 16 years: win back-to-back titles. Dale Jr. did that in 1998 and 1999, Martin Truex Jr. in 2004 and 2005 and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2011 and 2012 (maybe Elliott needs a Jr. in his name?). In each of those second seasons, Earnhardt, Truex and Stenhouse made their Cup debuts.

So it stands to reason you’ll see Elliott making his Cup race debut in 2015 – somewhere. Doug Duchardt, Hendrick GM, confirmed the likelihood of that on SIRIUS XM Radio.

Hendrick Motorsports added an extra part-time car since running Johnson for a couple of races in 2001 for Kyle Busch in 2004, and Brad Keselowski in 2008 and 2009.

If Elliott is ready to make the jump in 2016, as he should be, he’d replace Gordon in the 24 only if Gordon opts to leave on his own (the decision should be Gordon’s choice, not Hendrick’s).

Assuming Gordon stays past 2015 into 2016 as is likely, Elliott could be off-loaded into a Stewart-Haas Racing seat (SHR utilizes Hendrick engines and chassis), or another Hendrick/Chevrolet satellite team such as HScott Motorsports.

The other thing to consider too is the commercial side of the equation. NAPA is now out at the Cup level and hypothetically could move back in with Elliott. If NAPA comes in, then Hendrick would have to figure out a way to mix-and-match NAPA with its existing commercial partners on the 24. NAPA, traditionally, has run most if not all 36 races as a primary sponsor at the Cup level, rather than share with an existing primary partner.

It would likely be easier for NAPA to come in as a primary sponsor to another car to run the bulk of the schedule, rather than try to share the spotlight with the 24’s primaries.

The takeaway from today’s Kahne news though is that it doesn’t affect Elliott’s outlook as much as you might think.

Hendrick believes enough in Kahne long-term – at 34, he is nine years younger than Gordon, six younger than Earnhardt and five younger than Johnson – to invest in him knowing he will eventually have to prepare for the future by losing one of those three drivers in the next several years.

And that’s where Elliott still fits in. He’s still a part of the long-term plan for Hendrick Motorsports.

But his actual Hendrick Motorsports arrival date may have just been pushed back a year or two.

Andretti United team names drivers for inaugural Extreme E season

Extreme E drivers Andretti
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The Extreme E team formed by Andretti Autosport and United Autosports named Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen as its drivers Monday for the series’ inaugural 2021 season.

Munnings is a successful veteran of rally series. Hansen is a past winner and champion in the World Rallycross Championship.

They both will race in the environmentally conscious electric SUV series that will hold events in five areas around the world that are threatened by climate change. Chip Ganassi Racing and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton also are fielding cars in Extreme E, which will feature male and female co-drivers on every team.

Catie Munnings

“I’m so excited to join Andretti United Extreme E,” Munnings said in a release. ““I was really intrigued when I first heard about Extreme E, I just knew I had to be involved. The male / female racing partnership is a fantastic and exciting new concept. The season has incredible locations and the racing will be very exciting. It will be a new challenge for the teams and drivers, and I’m so thrilled to be working with such a strong team.

“The championship is a really innovative concept, it’s combining motorsport and science and will produce an important legacy in each race location. Bringing the platform that motorsport has in line with the awareness that the planet needs right now is awesome and a really important message.”

Timmy Hansen

Said Hansen: “Going into the Extreme E will be a new chapter in my career, one that I am extremely excited about. It is something brand new, not only for me, but the whole of motorsport. The format is something

we’ve never seen before. I’m also delighted to be able to carry the message of something bigger – talking about the environment and doing something good for the world – that’s something that really drives me. It’s going to be a big adventure in life to see these locations and I’m going to do my best in carrying this responsibility and hopefully making people aware of the challenges we have in the world, together with our passion for racing.”