|RPM drivers facing uncertain future|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 30 October 2010 12:12|
TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) - For Richard Petty Motorsports, simply making it to the racetrack this week was a victory.|
The team is facing an uncertain future amid questions about co-owner George Gillett Jr.'s ability to meet the team's financial obligations. Gillett owns the team along with NASCAR icon Richard Petty.
``I wish I had answers,'' RPM driver AJ Allmendinger said. ``I wish I could tell my team guys that it's going to be OK. I wish I could have answers that everybody wants. But I don't.''
Allmendinger is trying to stay focused on racing, and acknowledged that it isn't easy.
``We're here racing a car,'' Allmendinger said. ``Hopefully next weekend we're at Texas racing a car.''
Rumors about RPM's shaky financial footing are nothing new, but the speculation reignited when Gillett and business partner Tom Hicks tried unsuccessfully earlier this month to block a sale of the Liverpool soccer club they owned to John Henry and his New England Sports Ventures group.
RPM is facing the loss of driver Paul Menard - and a lucrative sponsorship deal from his family's chain of home improvement stores - at the end of the season, and granted an early contract release to rising star Kasey Kahne so he could join another team.
Speaking at Martinsville Speedway last weekend, RPM director of competition Robbie Loomis said the team was moving ahead with plans for 2011.
``There's been a lot of speculation about a lot of things,'' Loomis said. ``There always has been in this sport, but what gives me confidence is that we've always had the ability to move forward.''
But driver Elliott Sadler acknowledged there were worries within the team this week that all four of its cars might not even make it to Talladega.
``We're happy to be here, with all the rumors and stuff that we had going on this week,'' said Sadler, who will not be back with the team next year. ``We didn't really know. But I think when all four cars came down here and we've got all our stuff ready for Texas and we're getting all our stuff ready for Phoenix, that the mood is pretty good.''
The RPM situation is being watched closely by driver Marcos Ambrose, who has a deal to drive for the team next season, but now faces the possibility that the team won't be around.
Ambrose says he isn't looking at other options for next season - not yet, anyway.
``I'm fully committed to them until they tell me the boat's sunk,'' Ambrose said. ``But I'm optimistic, they're working through it, it's looking better every day. I'm looking forward to the opportunity.''
Ambrose is optimistic that something will be worked out to keep the team afloat.
``It's the best-case scenario for everybody,'' Ambrose said. ``For the sponsors, for Richard Petty, for NASCAR, for me, the best situation we can do is carry through and fix what we've got. I'm not going to look anywhere else until we exhaust the opportunity.''
FEUD FUEL: Jeff Gordon doesn't seem to have moved past last weekend's incident with Kurt Busch, who wrecked Gordon as retaliation for earlier contact at Martinsville Speedway.
Does the four-time champion plan to exact revenge Sunday at Talladega? He's not saying, which is part of the message he deliberately sent Saturday.
``As drivers, I can't tell you what I did two days ago, but I can tell you who wrecked me 15 years ago,'' Gordon said. ``I'll never forget that. That's probably something Kurt Busch might want to think about for a while.''
That mental warfare may be all Gordon needs to make Busch aware that he won't tolerate another incident such as the one at Martinsville.
``I race people the way they race me. They push and shove, I'll push and shove back,'' Gordon said. ``You have to understand who you're racing with and dealing with. It just isn't worth it to get into a situation with a guy who has such a short fuse. I'm a patient guy who tries to focus on what my race team needs to go out and win.
``The last thing I'm going to do is let that focus be interrupted by somebody like Kurt Busch.''
TOW-AWAY ZONE? Robby Gordon said track officials had his pickup towed out of a private driver/owner lot at Talladega - apparently over a sponsorship issue.
``It's gone,'' Gordon said. ``I guess it's at some impound yard somewhere. But it's my personal truck.''
This weekend, Gordon unveiled his own brand of energy drink, Speed Energy, and the company's logo was on the side of his truck and on his race car. Sunday's race at Talladega is sponsored by a rival energy drink, Amp Energy.
``I can appreciate Amp Energy sponsoring the race, but they don't sponsor me,'' Gordon said.
Gordon said other drivers have personal vehicles that feature logos of sponsors that are competitors with official NASCAR or track sponsors.
``I just talked to a couple other drivers,'' Gordon said. ``They're Coke (sponsored) drivers, and they're like, 'Well, can we not have Coke on our golf carts or not have Coke on our cars?' This one's a confusing situation for me.''
AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report.
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