24 November 2010
Richard Petty Motorsports drops two cars
Richard Petty Motorsports is to reduce operations from a four-car to a two-car operation for 2011 following financial problems.
"Richard Petty Motorsports has completed its restructuring process and is now in the process of moving forward," Richard Petty said in the statement. "RPM will shift from running four cars to two in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and that is never an easy process for the people involved. Currently, we are concentrating on building two solid programs with AJ Allmendinger behind the wheel of the #43 entry and Marcos Ambrose in the #9 Ford.
"We are very fortunate to have an extremely loyal family of partners and are looking forward to the future."
The financial situation has been an open secret for some time, and even led to the #43 car of AJ Allmendinger being briefly impounded after the AAA Texas 500 until an overdue payment was made to engine and chassis supplier Roush Fenway Racing, so that the car was finally released on the Wednesday and managed to get to Phoenix in time for qualifying on the Friday for the penultimate race.
The financial issues are believed to relate to team co-owner George Gillett. The current RPM team is the result of a merger of the former Petty Enterprises set-up with the Gillett Evernham squad at the start of 2009.
As a result, the team has announced that the #19 and #98 cars will not be run in 2011. Of the drivers affected, Elliott Sadler has already confirmed he's heading to the Nationwide series, while Paul Menard has signed to switch to Richard Childress Racing. The team will retain the #9 and #43 cars for Ambrose and Allmendinger. Ambrose will be new to the team, while Allmendinger signed a contract extenstion with the team earlier in the year.
The #9 seat had been originally taken by Kasey Kahne until he and RPM suddenly parted ways after the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte in October. Aric Almirola took the seat on a temporary basis for the remaining races of the season and impressed with a strong fourth place this weekend at Homestead, just ahead of Allmendinger in fifth.
"I've been having fun the last few weeks running all three series," said Almirola, who is off to the Nationwide series with JR Motorsports for 2011. "It's amazing how much you learn running all three series."
The strong end to the season gives hope for RPM being able to bounce back in 2011 if they're able to secure a better financial footing.
"This team could have easily just fallen apart and started fighting and just [ended up being] dismantled," Allmendinger said. "I just feel like we became stronger.
"It's tough for me, but that's no big deal. I'm OK. [The guys at the shop are] the ones who work the hardest, and they're the ones who have to be at the shop, and hear all the stuff, or not hear the stuff they're supposed to hear, all the stories on the Internet and on TV. And they have to fight through that and still have to work on these race cars.
"We got to the race track, put the crap behind us, got to business. Had some good runs, had some struggles. But in the end, we've got something to build on."
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