Blog Entry

Petty Stays in the Game

Posted on: November 29, 2010 5:26 pm
 
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.

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