October 21, 2010
Sometimes, all it takes is one tiny incident to topple an entire empire. One backwater assassination kicked off World War I; one bungled break-in brought down a president. And now, we may have a case where one particularly mouthy crew member may have kicked out the last of the supports holding up Richard Petty Motorsports.
You know the story by now. Kasey Kahne and a still-unidentified member of his team went at it Saturday night during the Bank of America 500, Kasey expressing frustration with his car, the crew member suggesting Kahne wasn't carrying his share of the load. Less than 100 hours later, Kahne was out at RPM. And now, further revelations are indicating that the entire organization may be tottering.
The financial travails of RPM are well known; in 2008, the sale of Petty Enterprises to Boston Ventures signaled an end to an era in the sport. And as soon as the organization as it now stands was created in late 2008 from the merger of Petty Enterprises and Gillett Evernham Motorsports, it suffered from Chrysler's bankruptcy and was forced to lay off employees and cut back on testing. In April, news reports indicated that the company had been in default on a $90 million loan since February. Economic necessity forced Petty to take on an alcohol sponsor, much to the chagrin of patriarch Richard Petty. And while the organization now runs four cars, it will be cutting to just two next year.
Or perhaps none. Fox Sports' Lee Spencer is reporting that Roush Fenway Racing and Roush Yates, which provide RPM with chassis and engines, have halted delivery of equipment and repossessed cars and engines already in RPM's possession. According to Fox Sports, no cars will be delivered to RPM after this weekend's Martinsville race.
(AP/Yahoo! Sports' Jenna Fryer has indicated that RPM does have its cars for Talladega, however.)
It's entirely possible that many of the problems now developing between Roush Fenway and RPM have some relation to the sale of the Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League. (Yes, soccer. And you scoffed when Nick Bromberg first noted the NASCAR significance of this story.) John Henry, co-owner of RFR, acquired Liverpool from George Gillette, co-owner of RPM, over Gillette's protests. The sale was acrimonious, and it's certainly possible that the bad blood from a soccer sale has flowed right into the companies' NASCAR relationship.
Currently, AJ Allmendinger is under a multiyear contract to drive the 43 for RPM, and Marcos Ambrose is scheduled to drive the 19 starting next year. The question is, will there be an RPM in November, much less next year?
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