If anyone had doubts about the survival of the Petty legacy, doubt no more.
In the wake of the recent announcement of a merger between Petty Holdings and Gillett Evernham Motorsports, Richard Petty and GEM principal Foster Gillett unveiled the new name of their combined organization, Richard Petty Motorsports, Monday on the Sprint Cup Media Tour.
A surprise guest at the announcement was AJ Allmendinger, who will compete in the first five races of the season for the organization that conveniently abbreviates as RPM and in selected races thereafter.
The team will field four cars in 2009: the full-time entries of Kasey Kahne (#9 Dodge), Elliott Sadler (#19) and Reed Sorenson (#43) and the part-time #44 that Allmendinger will drive.
Richard Petty said Boston Ventures, which entered a partnership with Petty Enterprises last summer, would play a minor role in the new organization. The seven-time champion also is eager to give Sorenson, who succeeds Bobby Labonte in the #43, any help or advice he's asked to provide.
“Right now, he's 22 years old, so he's pretty open-minded,” Petty said of Sorenson. “So he's never set in his ways about how things are supposed to be done. I think he's a quick learner - we'll find out.”
Gillett said he had no qualms about what amounts to taking the Gillett name off the door.
“It was the right decision,” Gillett said. “I don't think anyone ever contemplated anything else. The name made a lot of sense, and it was something we were very proud to do - and we look forward to trying to live up to the great expectations.”
Allmendinger impressed the brass at GEM last year when he posted an average finish of 16.4 in a fill-in role for the final five races of the season.
“I don't think you can say enough about AJ, both as a talent and as a professional, said Mark McArdle, vice president and managing director of competition for RPM. “He's a phenomenal competitor, he's a wonderful team-mate, and he's certainly going to be a sparkplug in our organisation.”
In late December, GEM tried to negotiate a buyout of Sadler's contract with an eye toward putting Allmendinger in the #19.
Sadler, however, filed notice of intent to sue for breach of contract, naming GEM, Ray Evernham Enterprises, owner George Gillett and Allmendinger in the action. The sides settled, and Sadler kept his seat.