Let's face it, Richard Petty Motorsports hasn't had a very good year. Kasey Kahne has left for Hendrick Motorsports (and temporarily, Red Bull Racing), Elliott Sadler has been more famous for his crash at Pocono than his performances on the track and Paul Menard is also leaving and taking his family sponsorship with him to Richard Childress Racing.
And majority owner George Gillett is in the midst of a financial crisis with some of his ventures including Liverpool Football Club, which he and co-owner Tom Hicks are trying to sell because of the club's massive debt.
AJ Allmendinger has been the team's bright spot, signing a contract extension with the team at midseason and slowly improving his performance since then. If Allmendinger hadn't cut a tire Sunday, he might have been the strongest challenger to Jimmie Johnson at the end of the race.
It's been widely assumed that the team will field two cars in 2011, one for Allmendinger and one for Marcos Ambrose, who's heading to the team from JTG Daugherty Racing (who in turn signed Bobby Labonte), but co-owner Richard Petty told Sporting News' Reid Spencer that the team is open to running a third team in 2011.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people about a third car, but our main deal is make sure we’ve got two really good cars, and then we try to do a third deal,” Petty said.
“We’ve got until the end of the year [to make a decision]. If we’re downgrading from four teams to three teams, we’ve still got plenty of everything it would take to run that third car.
“It wouldn’t be like just having two, and then all of a sudden we’ve got to go out and get cars, people and trucks and all the equipment to run the third car. We can wait a pretty [long time], I think, as far as being able to get cars ready.”
Of course, like most deals in this age of big time motorsports, the third car is dependent on funding. And while it would cost less to fund a third team at RPM than fund Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon (who are both still looking for sponsorship to round out 2011) it's still probably a major hurdle.
Who could be a candidate for the ride? While his departure from RPM is seemingly inevitable, Sadler hasn't publicly completely closed the door on returning. Scott Speed could be out of a ride in 2011 too, but it would be odd to see him on the same team with Allmendinger, the man that he replaced at Red Bull.
The most logical fit could be Justin Allgaier, who may be out of a ride with Penske Racing. Because of Verizon's reported departure from Penske, Allgaier is exploring his options for the future and could give a company a young and fairly successful (so far) young driver to build a marketing campaign around.