Richard Petty Motorsports, as expected, scaled back its operations from a four-car organization to a two-car operation Monday as Richard Petty continues to work with investors to take over the team.
“Richard Petty Motorsports has completed its restructuring process and is now in the process of moving forward. 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," Petty said in a statement. "Currently, we are concentrating on building two solid programs with AJ Allmendinger behind the wheel of the No. 43 entry and Marcos Ambrose in the No. 9 Ford.
“We are very fortunate to have an extremely loyal family of partners and are looking forward to the future.”
A spokesperson for the team indicated that Petty, not the Gilletts, is running the team.
Employees were told of the decision Monday and there were cutbacks from an organization that placed two cars in the top five of the Sprint Cup season finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Team minority owner Ray Evernham, who owns the most shares of any of the minority owners in the team that he sold to George Gillett in 2007 and then later merged with Petty Enterprises and Yates Racing, said Saturday that Petty is working with investors that would restructure the company so it is not saddled with its current debt.
Gillett, who sold the NHL Montreal Canadiens in 2009, had to restructure a $90 million loan on RPM earlier this year. He then saw the Liverpool soccer team he co-owned sold last month for far less than he thought it was worth and the following week, RPM employees were told their jobs couldn’t be guaranteed through the end of the season.
The team did make it through the end of yesterday's Ford 400 with all four cars as it scrambled to make payments to Roush Fenway Racing, which leases cars and engines to the team. Although the season is over, RFR President Geoff Smith said time is still of the essence.
“They have to get it done now,” Smith said Sunday. “Almost the week after the banquet, NASCAR wants the car numbers and owner applications. All the personnel want to know if they have a job. If all your people leave, then what you field next year will not be very good.
“There is a lot of pressure [to get it done]. But you don’t have the pressure of trying to scramble to get a race car ready for next week on top of it.”
Evernham and Ford Racing officials said Saturday they have confidence Petty can get the deal done. Medallion Financial group reportedly is one of the companies interested in the team, whose minority owners currently include Petty and Boston Ventures.
Petty created a new limited liability company – R P Family Franchise – earlier this month. Filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State office Nov. 10, it is not clear if this will be the company that controls the race team.
Evernham said Roush Fenway co-owner Jack Roush has been a good friend to Petty during this process. Roush Fenway Racing had a limit of the credit it could extend to Petty for the cars, which often were released to RPM at the last minute prior to race weekends, partly because of the four-car NASCAR team cap. With four cars already in its own stable, Roush Fenway could not underwrite RPM to keep it going, Smith said.
“We have got an obligation under the NASCAR rules of affiliated teams not to underwrite another team,” Smith said. “We have to keep our business relationship at an arms-length basis. You have to put on your hat and say, ‘How much credit would I extend to a stranger before I pull the plug?’
“Our operation philosophy is we’ll have skin in the game, but we’re not going to have all the skin. … They’ve got multiple things going on.”
Despite the turmoil, Kasey Kahne replacement Aric Almirola finished fourth and Allmendinger finished fifth in the season finale at Homestead.
“This team could have easily fallen apart and fought and just dismantled itself, but I feel like we became stronger and when we figure this stuff out back at the shop we will get this race team back where it needs to be and I think we will be that much stronger for having gone through this,” Allmendinger said.
Allmendinger has signed to stay with the team and his sponsor, Best Buy, is still in negotiations with Petty to be the sponsor for the majority of the races. JTG Daugherty Racing driver Marcos Ambrose has been signed to replace Elliott Sadler in the Stanley-sponsored car.
Paul Menard will take his family sponsorship with him to Richard Childress Racing next season while the Budweiser sponsorship (driven primarily by Kahne, who left for Red Bull with a month left in the season) moves to Kevin Harvick at Richard Childress Racing.
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