|Kasey Kahne won at Sonoma in 2009|
It's fairly standard for Hendrick to tie its sponsors, drivers and crew chiefs into tidy packages of concurrent contracts.
That didn't happen, though, last week when the team announced Farmers Insurance had signed a three-year extension of "its sponsorship of Hendrick Motorsports' No. 5 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series." There was no mention of the driver also getting a new deal tied to a sponsor that will be on the car through the 2017 season.
Kasey Kahne's contract runs through 2015, about the same time Chase Elliott will be ready for a promotion from the driver development program to the big leagues. Hendrick Motorsports has got to put Elliott somewhere, and there's no guarantee Jeff Gordon is going to smile his way into retirement and hand his seat over to Elliott. Gordon may be about to turn 43, but the four-time NASCAR champion is currently leading the Sprint Cup standings and has 11 top-10 finishes through 15 races.
It's easy to read too much into Kahne being left out of the Farmers announcement, to turn a simple sponsorship extension into much ado about nothing.
But there are some obvious facts that make it hard not to wonder just how safe Kahne is with the organization:
— A seat eventually has to open for the 18-year-old Elliott, who has two wins and is thick in the Nationwide Series title race.
— The team eventually must put a plan together to replace Gordon, occupant of the No. 24 since the 1992 season finale.
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