Tag:Richard Petty Motorsports
Posted on: November 29, 2010 5:26 pm

Petty Stays in the Game

The Petty name has been a part of NASCAR since the sport's beginnings more than sixty years ago.

Thanks to some financial wheeling and dealing it will remain a part of big league stock car racing for the immediate future.

Richard Petty Motorsports was saved when a group of investors led by Medallion Financial Group and DGB Investments came to agreement to relieve the embattled race team from the mountain of debt compiled by former owners George and Foster Gillett and allow the organization to move forward with plans to continue competing in the Sprint Cup Series.

The financial collapse of Gillett put the Petty operation on the very brink of extinction and the very real possibility of the team closing its doors for good after the Homestead season finale seemed imminent. Many wondered if Petty would go the way of other legendary NASCAR figures who tried their hand at ownership only to walk away from the sport.

But "The King" himself actively went out to pursue investors to save RPM and the newest alignment will find Richard positioned as Chairman and involved in more of the day-to-day operation of the business than with the previous incarnation of the team.

The turn of events was an early holiday gift for the organization which somehow managed to continue fielding four teams at the final races of 2010 while battling a huge financial burden that literally put the operation on the razor's edge of survival.

The plan to shrink from a four to two car stable in 2011 remains in place with A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose tabbed to pilot a pair of Fords out of the Petty stable, which will continue to purchase chassis and engine resources from Roush Fenway Racing.

The alignment between RPM and RFR, although strained in recent weeks due to the financial problems at the Petty organization, began to bear fruit as the turnaround for Ford continued from mid-season. Allmendinger in particular was extremely impressive during the latter part of the schedule and along with Aric Almirola, who piloted the RPM No. 9 entry, was able to notch a top five finish in the Homestead finale.

The performance alone, although promising, wasn't going to be enough to carry RPM through the off season as the preparation for 2011 began. As recently as ten days ago there were reports the organization would indeed go out of business.

The influx of new investors and the reorganization of the company is the white knight Petty fans had been hoping for since the news of the potential demise surfaced around mid-summer.

Gillett can add his name to the long list of business outsiders who came into NASCAR not fully understanding the sport and failed. That team photo includes the likes of Bobby Ginn, J.D. Stacy and Alex Meshkin and now includes Gillett, who was ousted in similar fashion to when Ray Evernham got the boot after RPM acquired the assets of Evernham Motorsports in 2007.

While the new partners don't have a history of working in the sport, they do have the benefit of working with someone who has for more than sixty years. Richard Petty is synonymous with NASCAR and is one of the last remaining links the sport has to its glorious past.

He'll now have the challenge of trying to run a team while competing with powerhouse organizations like Hendrick, Gibbs, RCR and RPM partner Roush Fenway. "The King" will have to be more than simply a goodwill ambassador, a role he admittedly played more than team owner with the previous regime.

There's a decent foundation to build on after ending 2010 on an upswing. Hopefully having the shadow of impending doom gone from the equation will allow this latest version of RPM to flourish.

It's good to know the sight of the "The King" in his cowboy hat and sunglasses will be with us for a while longer.

Posted on: October 21, 2010 1:08 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2010 1:21 pm

More to the Story

At first glance Kasey Kahne's early exit from Richard Petty Motorsports isn't that big of a surprise. Kahne isn't the first driver to leave an organization before his contract officially expires to get a jump on next season. We've seen several high-profile drivers in recent years make an early exodus from their lame duck status in attempt to get a head start on the next phase of their careers.

But dig a little deeper and the story reveals some bigger issues and the potential for disaster at Richard Petty Motorsports. Kahne's unhappiness with the organization, which came to a head after last Saturday night's race in Charlotte when he left the track after crashing with Sam Hornish Jr. but not before voicing his frustration about what he believed to be inferior equipment and the lack of leadership within the team, was something made known months prior.

When Kahne signed an unprecedented agreement to join Hendrick Motorsports two years down the road in 2012, he vowed to give his total effort to RPM and the No. 9 ride before exiting. And indeed there were times when Kahne and the team looked to be on the same page with results to prove it, most recently a fourth place finish in Fontana two weeks ago.

However more often than not Kahne was saddled with equipment issues including a series of brake failures that finally seemed to add up to last Saturday's explosion. 

All along Kahne has insinuated his team may not have had the resources originally promised. It seems he may be right on target with that assessment.

No sooner was Kahne's official release from the team announced before information about the financial instability of RPM began to surface. Money issues with team co-owner George Gillett, who is also involved in the contentious sale and purchase of Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League, have apparently leaked down into the Petty operation. The financial strain is so severe, there were reports that Roush Fenway Racing, which through a partnership agreement supplies equipment to RPM, has halted its assembly line and after Martinsville the Petty stable would dry up.

It now appears the team is safe through Talladega but after that, all bets are off.

With this swirling whirlwind of negativity, it's no wonder Kahne's level of comfort was off even with just five races remaining on his deal. 

Since what is currently known as Richard Petty Motorsports was founded by former championship-winning crew chief Ray Evernham in 2000, the organization has gone through what seems like a yearly reshuffling. Gillett came in for a partnership in 2007, after a failed deal with the Boston Ventures Company did not yield any additional funding or sponsorships, and since then the team has restructured several times to its current four car lineup.

That was supposed to contract to a two-car effort in 2011 with A.J. Allmendinger signed to continue driving the iconic No. 43 entry and Marcos Ambrose set to take Kahne's spot in the 9 ride. Sponsorship was reported to be in place for that effort.

However the recent turn of events has many wondering if there will even be a RPM entity next year with several sources reporting many team employees have been inquiring about opportunities with other organizations.

No one from RPM has publicly commented on the proceedings other than the official release which was distributed late Wednesday evening announcing Kahne's exit. Kahne will address the assembled media Friday afternoon at Martinsville.

Perhaps he will shed some light on what for now appears to be a very dark situation.
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