CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kasey Kahne doesn’t consider himself a one-year rental.
Kahne signed a multi-year deal with Rick Hendrick’s organization in August. But even before his relationship with Richard Petty Motorsports went sour in October, there was a snag. Hendrick had no open seats. So an unusual deal was struck, allowing Kahne to drive Red Bull’s No. 4 Toyota in 2011.
"Bottom line was, Rick told me that whatever it was, it would be right and he’d make sure it was right," Kahne said Tuesday. "This whole Red Bull deal came together, and it’s right. It’s as good as anything I’ve ever had, if not the best. So it’s pretty exciting and I look forward to this whole season and trying to make it work for everybody."
Kahne, 30, is just entering what should be his prime driving years, and his fans are salivating at the idea of him in Hendrick livery in 2012. But Kahne is more excited about where he is now.
"A lot of fans are like, ‘We can’t wait until you get to Hendrick’ or something like that, Kahne said. "Man, I can’t wait until we start this season with Red Bull. Where we’re at, where I’m at, is an awesome opportunity, with a super-stable company, a super-stable team.
"I just think we can do as much here as we can anywhere. For myself, if people listen to me and kind of see where I’m at, I don’t think it’s any type of a stepping stone [position]. We can do anything we want to this year if we just put our minds to it."
For Kahne, nothing could be worse than what he experienced in 2010, a season littered with broken promises and broken parts. Financial problems clouded the situation at RPM all season, and Kahne admitted that by the time he climbed from the car at Charlotte, sick and frustrated, it was time for both sides to walk away.
"Going into the season, I was excited," Kahne said. "And everybody was excited for the year. And then it just really fell apart pretty quickly. I broke a ton of parts, I lost brakes a few times. I broke parts seven different times throughout the season, which to me is a lot. So there were just a lot of little things that went on. I was worn out, and then some other stuff happened later in the season that made my mind up that I needed to change.
"I’m glad I did, because it was good for me to get out of there. It would have only gotten worse. So I was happy that I moved on when I did. They did their thing and everything worked out at that point."
Kahne went winless in 2010, leaving him with 11 Cup victories in a seven-year span. During that time, he’s won 20 poles and made the Chase twice. But he believes he should have done better.
"I don’t feel like I have near enough wins, like I have near enough poles, like I’ve made the Chase enough," Kahne said. "Everything about what I’ve done, I don’t feel like I’ve done near enough. I’m a pretty competitive person when it comes to racing and things off the track. I want to do it right. I want to figure out how to win more and contend a lot more often."
And winning races and making the Chase are utmost on his mind as he prepares to strap in for Red Bull.
"You have to make the Chase," Kahne said. "That’s what everybody’s here for. You have to win races. That’s why we do it. It’s to win. That’s why we drive and race. And the only way to do that is to be consistent in this sport. And that’s something where I feel like I’ve failed over the years.
"I’ve had years where I haven’t been very consistent. I’ve had years where I’ve been a lot better. And that’s something where I need to get a lot better at. To me, if I want to win races and make the Chase, I need to be consistent. I need to do that this year, next year and on and on. That’s the only way to make it happen in NASCAR."
With Kahne discussing his recovery from offseason knee surgery and teammate Brian Vickers fielding questions about his open-heart operation, one reporter joked that Tuesday night’s availability was more like an episode of "General Hospital." But Kahne said he can only imagine what it was like for Vickers to be away from racing that long.
"I wouldn’t say we’re best friends or anything but we’ve definitely been friends for a long time," Kahne said. "I take off a month and a half during the offseason and I can’t wait to get back in the car. I’m so excited to be back in a race car if I’m out of it for a couple of days. I couldn’t imagine being out for eight months at this time of your career."
And for Kahne, "this time of his career" is all about turning the page, regaining confidence and achieving goals. He may be a one-year rental, but he’s hoping to make a permanent impression.
"I’m confident because of the offseason and the way Red Bull’s preparing for this season," Kahne said. "I’m really excited. I think we can do a lot, run strong and have a lot of fun at the same time. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to get started."