It was a chance encounter with a bizarre twist — and it wasn't the way Carl Edwards expected to meet someone who might influence the future performance of his race team.
Some four hours after finishing sixth in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Edwards was in his motor home at the racetrack. Suddenly, he heard the engine of his four-wheeler roar to life.
“I hear my little Polaris Razor start up — I hear the exhaust start up,” Edwards said. “ 'Who's in my four-wheeler?' So I run out the door, and here's these two guys — and I don't know who they are — and they're getting ready to take off. I say, 'Hey, hey, who are you?'
“The one guy — I don't remember who he drove the motor home for — but he was like, 'I drive the motor home for ...' The other guy didn't say anything. (I thought) 'I'm being scammed here. Someone's stealing … I almost said, 'All right, go ahead, take it.'
“But I thought, 'No.' I pointed to the guy in the passenger seat and say, 'You — you get out, you stay here, and you (the driver) can go do whatever you need and bring it back …'
“Turns out the guy I made stay there was Foster Gillett, and he was embarrassed. He was like, 'I can't believe this is how we're meeting. You thought we were stealing your four-wheeler.' They were taking it because they had to run go get something from a motor home a quarter-mile away.”
Gillett is a principal of Richard Petty Motorsports, an organisation Edwards believes will benefit the four teams at Roush Fenway Racing, including the #99 Ford he drives. RPM and Yates Racing are working through the details of a merger that will not only bring RPM into the Ford camp, but also make RPM's engineering available to Roush. Gillett's father, George, is co-owner of RPM.
Roush-Yates Engines will supply power to all the Ford teams.
“It ended up being a 30-minute conversation that let me in on how they run things, and how dedicated he is to it,” Edwards said. “I think, if you look at what they've done with the strife they've been through and all the drama, they have the potential to really give us that extra 10th of a second, and all of the teams can be winners.”
Edwards has substantial hopes for the merger, which will bring RPM drivers Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and AJ Allmendinger under the same umbrella with Yates Racing driver Paul Menard.
“I think it's going to be really good,” Edwards said. “The key will be being fast enough to make Kasey Kahne (whose contract ends after next season) happy, so that he stays, so that he can help us. He is what made that place in my eyes. He is the guy there.
“I need to do whatever I can to make sure Kasey knows that we all believe in him.”
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News