We found out this last week that Kasey Kahne would be making a one year stop at Red Bull Racing before he takes over the #5 full time at Hendrick Motorsports for 2012. A lot of questions still remain about Kahne’s future, but one of the big ones is who will be his crew chief next year and beyond. His current crew chief, Kenny Francis, has been mentioned as an option, but Red Bull already has two crew chiefs in Ryan Pemberton and Jimmy Elledge, and Alan Gustafson is firmly entrenched at Hendrick. So if you are Francis, what do you do?
Rumors are flying about Francis’ future, and I’ve heard everything from he’s staying at RPM, to he’s leaving with Kahne. Whatever the case though, he may not have a ton of options.
Let’s say for the sake of argument, Francis will follow Kahne to Hendrick. The problem then becomes what does he do next season? Sit around in his office at HMS? Or maybe become some sort of competition consultant until Kahne arrives? With Kahne making the stop at Red Bull, there is no way Red Bull would allow Francis to come in and run Kahne’s team. Why you might ask? Because then Francis would have access to all of Red Bull’s testing, engineering, and setup data and however good that information might be, Red Bull would not be okay with him then taking all of that data to HMS.
If Francis hasn’t been offered the HMS job, does he stay at RPM or try and move on to greener pastures? Everyone is expecting RPM to announce they’ve signed Marcos Ambrose during tomorrow’s scheduled press conference, so that may certainly be an option for him. Other than staying though, it doesn’t really appear as though he would have many options for next season. Most of the crew chiefs for the marquee drivers are locked up long term, and I’m not sure Francis would take anything other than a high profile job with a team that had a shot to win championships. RCR will certainly need a fourth crew chief next season, but would he be interested in working with Paul Menard? There are certainly question marks for Matt Kenseth next season, but they may turn back to Robbie Reiser. There are always going to be rumors about Lance McGrew, but other then that, Hendrick’s bosses are solid. I also wouldn’t expect any changes at Penske, Gibbs, Stewart Haas, EGR, or MWR. So while anything can certainly happen over the final part of the season with driver/crew chief relationships, Francis’ opportunities may be severely limited.
So if you are Kenny Francis, what would you do?