CUP: RPM Races Through Uncertainy

Even though Elliott Sadler knows he won’t have a ride at Richard Petty Motorsports, that doesn’t mean he has no concern for what is going on with the future of the his No. 19 team.

Sadler is uncertain of where he will drive in 2011 but harbors no ill will toward the organization. Nor does he want to see the group shut down.

RPM officials have not guaranteed employees that they will make it through the rest of the season because of financial issues. Team co-owner Richard Petty is reportedly working on putting a deal together to secure the future of the organization, whose majority owner is George Gillett.

“I know I’m not going to stay around, but I still have a lot of friends on this race team that I want to be part of racing for a long time,” Sadler said Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I hope it keeps going in the right direction.”

Sadler, who is expected to drive for Kevin Harvick Inc. in at least some Nationwide and/or truck races next year, is optimistic his RPM car will finish the season.

None of the principal owners have talked publicly about their plans for the team, but crew members continue to wonder if they will make the final three weeks.

“We’re happy to be here with all the rumors we had going on this week,” Sadler said. “We didn’t really know, but I think when all four cars came down here and we got all our stuff ready for Texas and we’re getting all our stuff ready for Phoenix, we’re glad to be at the race track.”

RPM fields cars for Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and the No. 9, which was driven for much of the season by Kasey Kahne and currently is being driven by Aric Almirola. Kahne has already started at Red Bull Racing while Menard is headed to Richard Childress Racing next year.

Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose are signed with RPM for next season.

“I wish I had answers,” Allmendinger said. “I wish I could tell my team guys it’s going to be OK. I wish I could have answers that everybody wants, but I don’t.”

It was not a good day of qualifying for RPM and the entire Ford camp at Talladega. The best RPM driver was Sadler at 33rd while Allmendinger was 36th, Almirola 37th and Menard 38th. The best Ford was Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards in 23rd.

“I’m not sitting at home just thinking everything is peachy,” said Allmendinger, whose sponsor Best Buy has not yet renewed with RPM. “I’m a guy that stresses a lot about everything, so, in the end, we’re here racing the car.

“Hopefully, next weekend we’re at Texas racing the car, but we’re here, we’re having fun and it’s the same goal – go out there and win.”

As far as the No. 9, Almirola said he is available for next weekend if RPM wants him to drive the car. He already is scheduled to drive the truck for Billy Ballew Motorsports and Nationwide car for JR Motorsports at Texas.

“If I’m asked to, I’m ready,” Almirola said. “There was a day in time [earlier this year] that I didn’t have anything going on. If I can run all three series in one weekend, that would be pretty awesome.”

For the organization, it would just be awesome to get through the season. Sadler said the economy is tough and everyone is battling for the same sponsorship dollars.

“We’ve got a lot of guys on our team working paycheck to paycheck,” Sadler said. “They’ve got families. They’ve got kids. They’ve got house payments. They’ve got a lot of stuff they have to take care of.

“I’m just praying and hoping everything works out for them. No matter what happens to me next year, I definitely hope Richard Petty Motorsports stays healthy, stays in the business. Richard Petty deserves it. There are a lot of guys on that team that deserve it.” • Ryan Newman hopes his stretch of bad luck ends at Talladega