Kasey Kahne has been released from Richard Petty Motorsports with immediate effect, the team announced in a statement on Wednesday.
Kahne and RPM appear to have reached breaking point after he refused to carry on at Charlotte after crashing with brake problems. Reports said that he was feeling ill and physically sick, and was replaced behind the wheel by JJ Yeley albeit several laps down after the crash damage was repaired.
However the team seems to feel that he wasn't putting everything into the race and could have carried on if he'd wanted to, pointing out that Kahne was well enough to run in a charity 5K event the next day.
"I was told that I needed to start doing my part, is what one guy told me last night after the race," Kahne is reported to have told journalists at the racetrack on Sunday, confirming rumours of friction within the team and his unhappiness at the car's performance and chronic brake issues. "I told him he needed to start doing his part."
Kahne joined RPM - then called Evernham Motorsports - at the end of 2003 and recorded four poles, five second-place and 13 top-five finishes in his first season, and took his first and only two wins (in Richmond and Texas) in 2005.
Aric Almirola will replace Kahne in the #9 Ford at Martinsville Speedway, but the driver line-up for the four races post-Martinsville is still to be announced.
Almirola had been scheduled to drive the Red Bull #83 Toyota this weekend, and it's believed that Kahne will take that drive instead especially as he's already signed to drive for Red Bull full time in 2011 before taking over the Hendrick Motorsports #5 car in a multiyear deal from 2012.
There's a lingering question over what will happen at Red Bull should Brian Vickers return after taking medical leave for most of 2010. Vickers insists he will return, but with the team not looking like it's preparing to expand to a three-car operation it would mean Scott Speed - a product of Red Bull Driver Search programme - being squeezed out.