Subjects to include long-term financial future of RPM in shaky times
By Sporting News Wire Service
October 21, 2010
06:11 PM EDT
Kasey Kahne's departure from Richard Petty Motorsports, announced Wednesday night, was only the first in a series of hurdles faced by the organization.
Principals of RPM and Roush Fenway Racing, which supplies chassis, engines and technical support to RPM, were meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the long-term financial future of the organization originally formed by the January 2009 merger of Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Petty Holdings.
As the hauler for Kahne's No. 9 Fords was being re-decaled Thursday in the RPM parking lot, the short-term future of the organization was clarified in the wake of reports that Roush Fenway had repossessed cars intended for RPM's use in the Oct. 31 Amp Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
With immediate issues apparently settled, the chassis were returned to RPM from Roush (located across the street from RPM near the Concord, N.C., airport) on Thursday morning. The engines for the Talladega cars are due to be delivered Friday morning, Sporting News has learned.
Tad Geschickter, Marcos Ambrose's current owner at JTG Daugherty Racing, told Sporting News that Ambrose recently had asked for an early release from his ride in the No. 47 Toyota, but that current sponsor and promotional obligations prevented that request from being granted. That was the status quo as of Wednesday night, when Geschickter last spoke to Ambrose.
"Our plan at this point is to finish out the year," said Geschickter, who has hired 2000 Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte to replace Ambrose in the No. 47 next year.
Kahne notwithstanding, RPM's other drivers -- A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Elliott Sadler -- will compete for the organization in Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville. Sadler and Menard will leave RPM at season's end. Allmendinger re-signed with the team and will be joined by Ambrose in 2011.
Two recent watershed events have clouded the landscape at RPM. First, New England Sports Ventures, with John Henry the principal owner, recently acquired the English Premier League's Liverpool soccer team in a forced sale through the Royal Bank of Scotland for $476 million from owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
On this side of the Atlantic, Henry is better known as the owner of the Boston Red Sox and the partner of Jack Roush in Roush Fenway Racing. Gillett, who in 2009 sold his controlling interest in the Montreal Canadiens NHL team, owns majority interest in Richard Petty Motorsports, an RFR affiliate.
New England Sports Ventures agreed to retire approximately $317 million of Gillett's and Hicks' $376-million debt to the Royal Bank of Scotland on acquisition of the Liverpool team.
Hicks, a former owner of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team, called the deal an "extraordinary swindle" and threatened legal action. Yet, on Thursday, representatives of Henry and Gillett participated in the meeting in Concord in an attempt to define and secure the future of Richard Petty Motorsports.
Second, Kahne's departure under less-than-ideal circumstances turned the spotlight on RPM. Citing illness as the reason, Kahne refused to return to his car during Saturday night's Bank of America 500, after the No. 9 Ford had been repaired following a wreck.
Instead, J.J. Yeley completed the race. The next morning, Kahne ran a sub-23-minute 5K in a charity race he sponsored.
That incident was a contributing factor in Kahne's release from RPM and early appearance at Red Bull.