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Head2Head: Better season with new team: Kahne or Bowyer?

October 03, 2011, , NASCAR.com

Two of the Sprint Cup Series' young superstars will take their talents to new teams in 2012. Kasey Kahne will move from his interim position at Red Bull Racing to take control of the No. 5 at Hendrick Motorsports. While at Kansas this weekend, Clint Bowyer will announce he is leaving Richard Childress Racing for a ride at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Which driver will have better 2012 with new team: Kahne or Bowyer?

KAHNE BOWYER

Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne are about even on talent, so it comes down to teams and without question, Kahne will have a better season than Bowyer in 2012.

Kahne is going to Hendrick, a team that has proven it is in a class all its own in the Sprint Cup Series. They have the best equipment, they have three of the most respected drivers in the garage who have nine titles between them -- Hendrick is without question one of the top teams in NASCAR.

Kahne also has his crew chief, Kenny Francis, making the move with him meaning the transition should be almost seamless. Not much changes for Kahne except for getting out of the inferior Red Bull No. 4 and sliding into an instant Chase contender at Hendrick in the No. 5.

For Bowyer, it's not that simple at Michael Waltrip Racing.

One, he's driving for a man he once called "the worst driver in NASCAR," so a trusting relationship will have to be created. Two, MWR is still trying to find itself in the Cup Series. The team has just two wins -- both by David Reutimann -- and aside from Reutimann in 2009, hasn't even come close to anything resembling a Chase berth.

The bottom line is this: Both Kahne and Bowyer have the skill set to make a run for the Chase. The only difference is one driver will be on a perennial championship contender while the other will be on a team happy to post top-10s when they can.

Bill Kimm, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Michael Waltrip Racing won't be confused with Hendrick Motorsports. One is a team that's trying to make the Chase for the first time, the other is an organization with 10 championship banners. And yet, that doesn't mean future MWR driver Clint Bowyer can't have a better 2012 than future Hendrick pilot Kasey Kahne once both settle into their new homes.

No question, Hendrick has more cars, more resources, more money. The expectations will be for Bowyer to make the Chase, and for Kahne to contend for the championship. On paper, it sounds like a mismatch. And yet, relatively speaking, the ceiling for Bowyer is considerably higher at MWR than it is for Kahne at Hendrick. The latter will be wedged in among multiple-time champions, and asked to keep up. The former will have the chance to raise the organization's profile to a new level. That happens, Bowyer has the better year, regardless of whatever the numbers say.

It's certainly possible. People forget Bowyer has made the Chase three times (once more than Kahne) and finished as high as third in final points (five spots better than Kahne's best). All that potential at Hendrick is hard to ignore, although not every driver who goes there is an automatic winner. There are no guarantees for Bowyer, either. But if he can lift up MWR and bring the organization somewhere it's never been, then his 2012 season will have been an overwhelming success -- no matter what Kahne does.

David Caraviello, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Both will have huge expectations placed on them at their respective new teams, but which driver will live up to those and have a 2012 to remember? Bill Kimm and David Caraviello have their thoughts. Read theirs and weigh in with yours in the comments below. And don't forget to vote in the poll at the right.