The last couple of years have been painful, with having to watch Richard Petty show up each week at the track with his Richard Petty Motorsports lineup of race teams that had virtually no chance of winning a race. Petty was basically nothing more than a figurehead in the operation that raced under his own name as George and Foster Gillette owned the majority of the operation.
The Gillettes got into the sport when they bought controlling interest in Ray Evernham’s organization but did so with no experience in racing. They had also got into the sport without the large sum of cash it takes to be competitive on a regular basis. Petty joined what was then Petty Enterprises with the Gillette operation in an effort to keep his name in the sport, but the Gillette financial problems plagued Petty and his teams to the point he was struggling just to show up at the track the last couple of races.
All of that may be behind Petty now as he, along with Medallion Financial Corp. and DGB Investments, bought out the Gillettes’s share of the operation. Petty will now take over as chairman and will be very active in the day-today operations of the new company. More importantly, the new group of investors paid off the debt of the company that was said to be around $100 million and has the money to make sure that the operation will now have what it needs to be successful.
RPM ended the year under a cloud of uncertainty as Kasey Kahne left the flagship team of the operation late in the year, just when rumors began to swirl that the organization would not have enough money to finish the year. Petty announced before the end of the season that he would be reducing the number of teams from four down to two for 2011, with A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose as his drivers.
Petty will continue to get his equipment from Roush-Fenway and with the way that organization ended the season there is no reason not to think that both Petty’s #43 with Allmendinger behind the wheel, and Ambrose in his #9 Ford will be competitive. Both teams also finished in the top 35 in owner’s points this season, guaranteeing them a starting position in the first five races of next season. That will take the pressure off the organization as it does not have to spend all winter working to just qualifying for not only the Daytona 500 but also the four races that follow.
Unfortunately for the organization, Petty had to lay off 75 employees at the end of the season after the downsizing but the 80 employees that kept their jobs should be motivated by the two top-5 finishes that Allmendinger and Ambrose posted in the last race of the season at Homestead- Miami. The two teams will also be well funded as Petty has kept together the sponsors that were on his four teams this season.
Maybe the best news to come out of this new deal is that the sport will continue to see its greatest icon at the track each week. Richard Petty is known as ‘The King’ because he was and in many ways is still the face of the sport and as long as he is at the track the sport still has that link back to its roots.
Here’s hoping that The King once again is competitive and that as he calls it, has to pay out a little “chicken dinner” money each time one of his teams wins a race. It could very well turn out to be one of the good feeling stories of next season and if that is the case not only will Petty benefit from it but also the entire sport.
Kentucky Speedway will kick off its first season of hosting a Sprint Cup race with a triple-header weekend July 7-9. The Camping World Truck Series will take to the track on Thursday night to be followed by the Nationwide Series on Friday. The longawaited inaugural Sprint Cup race will take place on Saturday. Season ticket packages are on sale now and can be purchased by phone at (859) 578-2300