Richard Petty says he believes in the determination of new driver Marcos Ambrose and wants AJ Allmendinger to show more consistency as he looks ahead to 2011.
The Richard Petty Motorsports co-owner said the four-car operation could be a two-car team next year but believes it can be stronger thanks to its alliance with Roush Fenway Racing and support from Ford.
The No. 19 car, currently driven by Elliott Sadler, and the No. 98 car, currently driven by Paul Menard, might not return next season. Sadler’s contract is up at the end of this season and he is unlikely to return. Menard has announced he is taking his family sponsorship to Richard Childress Racing next year.
Kasey Kahne, the last driver to win a race for RPM, is leaving the team to drive for Red Bull Racing next year before moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. Ambrose is replacing Kahne in the No. 9 car, and the team is moving the Stanley sponsorship from the No. 19 to the No. 9.
“Right now, we’re happy with two cars,” Petty said earlier this week during a taping for a Ford Fiesta commercial. “I think we’ve got everything squared away on two cars. Right now, our main focus is going to be on two cars. If something falls out of the sky, then naturally we’re open.”
Petty said the team plans on Best Buy returning as Allmendinger’s sponsor, but no contract has been signed yet.
“We feel real confident that they’re going to come back and do the same thing they’ve been doing the last couple of years,” Petty said.
As sponsorship is being settled, Petty would like to see more consistency out of Allmendinger, who has four top-10 finishes this year but also eight outside the top-20. He is 22nd in the standings.
“We’re really disappointed in not being a lot more consistent than what he’s been,” Petty said. “Some of it’s been our fault, some of it has been his fault, some of it has been circumstances. ... You’ve got to have consistency.
“Right now, I don’t see any team being as consistent as to what I think it would take to win a championship. Somebody will get on a roll and get that part of it. With AJ’s deal, we’ve got to get him more consistent, we’ve got to get our crew more consistent.”
Allmendinger, in an interview with SceneDaily.com partner Rowdy.com, said the inconsistency stems from this being his first true full season in Sprint Cup. He ran a partial schedule with Red Bull and Gillett Evernham Motorsports in 2007 and ‘08. He ran the full schedule for RPM last year, but his team and the organization were underfunded and in a state of transition.
“This year is my first year to really experience the real ups and downs of a full NASCAR season in points – when you get on a good set of runs and then you go into struggling,” Allmendinger said.
His focus now is to get things headed in the right direction for next year.
“We’re kind of in a moment as we speak right now where we’re a little bit lost,” Allmendinger said. “We need to go out there, we need to keep working on the setups.
“We’ve lost our way a little bit. But working with Ford and Roush Fenway. They were the same way, they found their way and we’ll find our way. … I just look at these last 12 races as being real critical for next year.”
It’s the alliance with Roush Fenway and Ford that make having a two-car team feasible, Petty and Allmendinger said.
“We’re going to feed off four other cars,” Petty said. “You really have got basically a six-car team as far as building the cars, doing your engineering on the car and building the cars so the cars are at least equal. You leave it up to the crew chiefs and drivers to beat everybody else.”
That alliance is one of the reasons Ambrose is leaving Toyota and JTG Daugherty Racing for RPM next year. He believes that having a teammate will provide more benefits than at JTG, a single-car team that has an alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing.
Petty said that he likes the attitude of Ambrose, who wants to prove his worth in NASCAR or move back to his native Australia.
“He is a fierce race-car driver,” Petty said. “Talking to him and stuff, he’s got the road courses down pretty good. He said he knows he’s got a lot to learn running around the round tracks. He’s in the learning process. He’s come back and said, ‘OK guys, I’m going to try this, I’m going to do everything I can, if it don’t work, I’m going home.’
“So you know dang good and well he’s going to put everything he’s got into it because he doesn’t want to stay around and just run to be running. He wants to win races.”
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