RPM: Future in Doubt
Four-car team may close doors
By: Matt Taliaferro | 10/21/10, 4:15 PM EDT
The ongoing Kasey Kahne/Richard Petty Motorsports saga continues to play out, with more twists and turns by the hour.
Kahne crashed in Saturday evening’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway when the brakes on his RPM Ford went out. Upon exiting the car in the garage area, Kahne complained of feeling ill and threw up. However, when the team repaired the damage, Kahne had bolted, insisting he not get back in the ride and taking exception to a crewman telling him he needed to ìpull his weight.î At which point J.J. Yeley was asked to click off laps in the No. 9 Budweiser machine.
In a surprising move, RPM released Kahne from the team on Wednesday night and named Aric Almirola the driver for the upcoming Martinsville race. Kahne, headed to Red Bull Racing in 2011, will now pilot its No. 83 Toyota for the final five races of the season. He’ll drive car No. 4 for RBR next season before moving on to Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevy in 2012.
Oh but, wait ... there’s more.
Reports on Thursday morning indicated that RPM has once again fallen on hard economic times and owes Kahne thousands of dollars in back pay. SPEED.com reported that Roush Fenway Racing, which sells chassis and engines to RPM, repossessed its shipment of Talladega hardware from the RPM shop due to non-payment. The chassis are said to have been returned, although it’s not clear if engines and other components have.
Most stunning of all is the rumor that RPM will shut down after the Talladega race on Oct. 31 or possibly as soon as the Monday after the Martinsville race on Oct. 24, as Roush will cease providing support without payment.
This in the midst of this are RPM owner George Gillett’s financial troubles concerning his sale of his debt-ridden Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League to John Henry, co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, at a price tag of $467 million. The soured Henry-Gillett relationship is believed to play a major factor in RFR cutting its support to RPM.
As if Gillett didn’t have enough problems, SI.com’s Tom Bowles reports that RPM was given ìat least 11 loan extensions by creditors in the last 12 months aloneî and that those creditors no longer viewed a NASCAR team worth the continued investment.
As for RPM’s current drivers, Paul Menard and Elliott Sadler have already announced their intentions to leave the team at season’s end. AJ Allmendinger signed a multi-year extension in August as driver of the No. 43 Ford, while Marcos Ambrose was signed in August to replace Kahne in the No. 9 machine. It's also believed that Kahne's crew chief, Kenny Francis, has also been released by RPM. Francis was to follow Kahne to RBR at the conclusion of the season. The team was expected to house a two-car operation in 2011 despite Richard Petty’s mention of a third team in late September. As of now, however, it appears RPM will be lucky to even exist next week, much less next year.
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