So yesterday's news regarding the merger of Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing came as quite a surprise. It's rare that such big news sneaks up on the NASCAR media like it did on Thursday. Usually there's a leak somewhere resulting in rumors around the garage. Not since Kurt Busch left Roush Racing for Penske Racing have I been like, "Woah, where did that come from?"
Now I'm not really surprised by the actual news. It's no secret that RPM and Yates were both hurting financially. My surprise was that they were able to keep it hush-hush that they were working on a deal.
Considering the two teams' financial situations and the marketplace, I can't find any fault with the merger. Seems like a good idea. But it does mean two fewer rides available in a shrinking Cup field.
Consider that the 2010 version of RPM was once three distinct organizations that -- in a thriving economy -- would likely be fielding four teams each. So that's up to eight rides off the market right there.
Here are some other observations on the merger:
Sadler left RYR midway through the 2006 season after 3 1/2 seasons in the 38 car. And the team he left for was Evernhan Motorsports, which of course is now RPM. On top of that, RPM tried to cut ties with Sadler prior to the start of this season before he forced their hand to keep him in the No. 19.
So why retain Sadler when it would seem there could be some ill will and resentment? Perhaps for the same reason they had to keep him this season -- his contract. He's reportedly signed through 2010. He'd have to walk away on his own to get him out of the 19 car. There had been a report that Sadler had been looking elsewhere, possibly as a replacement for Casey Mears at RCR, but it doesn't seem to have legs.
But there's also this -- despite mediocre results, sponsors seem to love Sadler the same way they do Michael Waltrip. And as I've said time and time again, sponsors drive this sport.
But are the hearts of the HOF owners really into it? Jeff Moorad, one of the principal owners of the organization, is in the midst of buying the San Diego Padres. I can't imagine HOF Racing is a top priority for him at the moment.
Even though McMurray never lived up to expectations since coming aboard as the replacement for Kurt Busch, Jack Roush reportedly still has a soft spot for him and if McMurray didn't find a ride elsewhere, he figured to hook him up with Yates, which had been basically operating as a satellite for Roush (see Darnell, Erik). Well, that's out the window.
Unless there's still more to the Sadler situation, McMurray has no options at RPM. His best option may be a reunion with Chip Ganassi as the replacement for Martin Truex Jr. in the Earnhardt Ganassi No. 1 car. That's if Ganassi will welcome him back. That appears to be the best ride available with a marquee team.