LAS VEGAS — Kasey Kahne has all season to figure out where he's going to drive in 2011. The more pressing issue right now is climbing from the bottom of the Sprint Cup standings.
Kahne arrived at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a disappointing 33rd in points and in need of a complete race. He had good cars in the first two races but wrecked at Daytona and California to fall far behind the competition in the race to claim one of NASCAR's 12 Chase for the Championship slots.
"I don't think our season is over, but we're definitely in a hole," Kahne, 29, said Friday.
There's reason to believe Kahne and his Richard Petty Motorsports team can turn it around. After all, Mark Martin was 34th in points after a month last season, but he rallied to make the Chase and finish second in the final standings.
"If you're 34th in points after 10 races, you're probably in trouble," Kahne said. "But early in the year, I think you have plenty of time to make those gains, and we need to get started this weekend."
Kahne has faith he can be good in Sunday's Shelby American race, where he'll start 19th after qualifying Friday at 185.995 mph.
But he's not sure it's good enough to win, and he's positive it's not good enough to compete weekly with Hendrick Motorsports.
Though the offseason switch from Dodge to Ford has given Kahne stronger motors and more resources, the overall program is not at the level he hoped for when RPM began leaning on Roush Fenway Racing.
"I expected the cars to be better. I mean just a little bit," Kahne said.
Kahne, who is the final year of his contract with RPM, was openly aggravated during a tumultuous 2009 season. Yet he still won two races, made the Chase and finish 10th in points.
But that's not good enough for Kahne.
He has not declared himself gone for sure from RPM, but he admits he's keeping a close eye on everyone else in the garage in an apparent evaluation of potential future jobs.
"It's kind of nice to be able to sit back and look and watch the performance of our team, watch the performance of the Chevrolets, the Toyotas, the Fords and the Dodges and just kind of see where everybody is at and make that decision," he said.
So where does RPM stack up? Well, Kahne doesn't know. And from the sounds of it, the team is going to have to show him a lot to keep him.
"I have to feel like we're going in the right direction," he said. "This is my seventh year, and I've stuck it out with them since Day 1 and done everything I could to drive, and done everything to communicate, and I'm going to keep doing that.
"In the middle of this year or toward the end of this year, when I decide to make my decision of what I'm going to do, if I don't feel like we're going to be able to run with the Hendrick cars for the next three or four years, then I've got to make a change. If I feel like we can, then I'm going to stay right where I'm at."