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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]
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualified for twelfth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. After a three-race absence, Tony Stewart has returned to the track at Atlanta. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualified for fourth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Newman is 9th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualified for third position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Larson is 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, won the Pole position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. It was Harvick`s sixth pole win of the 2014 season. He is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Serta/Menards Chevrolet SS, finished ninth and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Great Stuff Chevrolet SS, finished 28th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, finished eighth and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, finished 35th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and his team celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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