Richard Petty Motorsports Survival: Is It Possible?

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. left Dale Earnhardt Incorporated in 2007, a lot of people said that it was the end of the team. Tony Stewart went as far as saying that, “DEI is just a museum without Earnhardt.” However, DEI managed to keep things together as they merged with Ganassi Racing to form Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and have won the two biggest races this year with Jamie McMurray.

With Kasey Kahne’s departure from Richard Petty Motorsports, it looks that they’ll be put in a position where their survival is also in question.

Thursday morning, a meeting took between principals of RPM and Roush-Fenway Racing, supplier of chassis, engines and technical support for RPM, to discuss the long-term financial future of the organization.


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RPM was originally formed in January 2009 through the merger of Gillett-Evernham Motorsports and Petty Holdings.

Since then, Ray Evernham has been trying to get out of the fold with his lawyers as he wants to focus on other venues of interest and doesn’t believe in the situation there.

That would seem to equal no surprise as when more details about RPM are released, the more people become to realize the mess that equals RPM right now.

It was reported by FOX Sports that Roush-Fenway had repossessed cars that RPM was planning to use at Talladega Superspeedway at the end of the month due to lack of payment. FOX Sports added also that according to their source, employees were told that they may not have a job past Martinsville this weekend.

Since then, as according to NASCAR.com, this has been settled. The chassis were to be returned to RPM on Thursday morning with the engines being delivered Friday morning.

Despite the quick solve to the problem, it does make you wonder about team’s financial issues.

Along with losing Kahne at season’s end, RPM is also losing Elliott Sadler, who says he doesn’t want to no longer to be in this situation, and Paul Menard, who has signed a deal with Richard Childress Racing. More importantly with Menard, he is taking the Menards sponsorship with him to RCR and Budweiser is following suit as they’re pairing up with Kevin Harvick.

Joining the team in 2011 will be Marcos Ambrose, who will be a teammate to A.J. Allmendinger who just signed a multi-year contract extension.

Ambrose had requested to leave JTG Daugherty Racing early, however Tad Geschickter, current team owner, said the request was turned down due to current sponsor and promotional obligations.

“Our plan at this point is to finish out the year,” Geschickter told NASCAR.com.

Ambrose hasn’t had major success in NASCAR he currently sits 26 in points and has seven top fives and 13 top 10s in 78 career starts.

Allmendinger, the team’s principal driver, currently sits 20 in points and after four years of competition in Sprint Cup, has only two top fives and 15 top 10s in 111 career starts.

Though besides the drivers being an issue, there is also the issue of the relationships between John Henry, part owner of Roush-Fenway Racing, and George Gillett. New England Sports Ventures, which John Henry owns, acquired the English Premier League’s Liverpool soccer team in a forced sale through the Royal Bank of Scotland for $476 million from George Gillett and fellow owner Tom Hicks.

Both principals are heavily involved in sports’ ownership as Henry owns the Boston Red Sox while Gillett sold his controlling interesting in the Montreal Canadiens NHL team.

With each side having a say in what goes on with regards to the partnership, could this outside of NASCAR deal end up hurting RPM?

Secondly, Kahne left under not the best circumstances as he refused to return to his car following a wreck Saturday night after the car had been repaired. The reasons he said were due to sickness, however it has been learned since that there was some tension within the organization.

Sources have told Speed that the reason Kahne was released had to do with the fact that RPM owed him back salary, again citing financial issues.

With those activities, it is certain to leave bad taste in people’s mouths and have them questioning the validity of RPM before going forth with agreeing to possibly sponsor them.

This may not be the end of issues at RPM being discussed as Darrell Waltrip said on twitter last night that there is more to the RPM-Kahne story then many people know.

Either way, the survival of the team is in question and it’ll be interesting to see what the next couple of months hold.


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