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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]
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Brian France, NASCAR President (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, and his daughter Elladee take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 21st position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Newman is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 5th position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, won the pole position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS on the front row. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, speaks during a press conference prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 7, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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