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Is the end nigh for Red Bull Racing?

Despite their success winning the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, this weekend's season finale is the end of the road for Red Bull Racing in NASCAR
Kasey Kahne put Red Bull Racing back into NASCAR victory lane one last time at Phoenix, but while his own future is assured - he's off to Hendrick Motorsport in 2012 behind the wheel of the #5 vacated by Mark Martin - the same can't be said for the team he will be leaving behind.

Drinks company Red Bull announced in June that they were exiting NASCAR competition at the end of the current season, after failing to find the same sort of success or media coverage in the sport that they had garnered with their world championship-winning F1 operation.

At the time, team manager and vice president Jay Frye had confidently asserted that "we have every expectation to be a two-car team next year ... we could be a four-car team." He had added that "We believe we can put something together rather quickly in 30 to 45 days."

That time line has long since passed and there has been no word since then of the team's plans for 2012. With the end of the season now just days away, it's the point where the operation will start to break up and key staff will begin to leave unless something is put in place immediately. The team has already issued its employees with a mandatory notice of potential layoffs in December.

There had been rumours in the autumn of former F1 world champion and current occasional NASCAR driver Jacques Villeneuve enquiring about the sale of "assets" should the team be broken up, while current RBR driver Brian Vickers had expressed frustration over the lack of a buy-out emerging.

"I've put them in touch with some great buyers, and they haven't done anything with it so I'm not sure what they're up to," said Vickers in September. "Nothing has really changed there. To my knowledge, they're still looking to sell the team."

Unlike Kahne, Vickers does not have an exit strategy in place should Red Bull Racing go down with all hands and will likely to find himself without a series ride in 2012. He missed most of 2010 with a series of serious medical issues, and had struggled to regain his previous race form since his return. His frustration seems to have been building, with a notably crash-filled outing at Martinsville and another seemingly-intentional clash with Matt Kenseth at Phoenix all suggesting a "no longer care" attitude might be setting in.

The only faint ray of hope for the team was the sight of Cole Whitt making his Cup debut on track in the Kobalt Tools 500 race at Phoenix International Raceway last weekend, in an unexpected third RBR car alongside Kahne and Vickers. Whitt has personal sponsorship from Red Bull, and it may be that Jay Frye is seeking to persuade the energy drink retailer to continue some funding of the team through this route even as they pull out of team ownership.

Whitt was put out on track on Sunday supported by a pit crew consisting of the organisation's research-and-development team - which, as some analysts have pointed out, is an odd thing for a company with only a few weeks' life remaining to have in any case.

But while there's always the possibility that top secret discussions are going on somewhere in North Carolina that may yet save the day for Frye and the remaining Red Bull team members, the lack of any rumours or speculation of any kind is leading fans to believe that there's just simply no prospects to even gossip about.



Related Pictures

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Red Bull Racing`s Kasey Kahne. [Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Earnhardt-Gannasi Racing teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray battle Red Bull Racing teammates Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers during the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. [Photo credit: NASCAR Media]
The #4 Red Bull Racing Team celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kasey Kahne examines the faces of fans who submit their pictures to be displayed on his No. 4 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Red Bull Racing Toyota this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. [Picture Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, races to a fourth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #14 Janssen Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation Chevrolet SS, finishes in seventh place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #14 Target Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kroger/Butterfinger/Coffeemate Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, leads Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, races to his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career win with a victory lap and checkered flag, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory with a wave of the chequered flag Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

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