NASCAR

Despite rumors, Petty team plans to run full 2010 season

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TALLADEGA, Ala.

Richard Petty Motorsports’ director of competition Robbie Loomis expects the organization to stay status quo until the end of the season.

Despite rumors of doom and gloom surrounding the organization — and the latest allegation that Budweiser will not fulfill its contractual obligations with the final payment on its sponsorship of the No. 9 entry — Loomis insists that RPM will field four cars throughout the remainder of the NASCAR season.

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“I’m not addressing any rumors or speculation,” Loomis said adamantly. “We’re here to race, and I think that everybody knows how hairy Talladega can get. There usually ends up being a Big One. Practice went really good. The cars are performing good. Aric Almirola’s doing a great job in the Budweiser car and did a great job for us last week at Martinsville. I’m happy for Aric to get the opportunity, and want to get some of these mile-and-a-half and mile racetracks like Phoenix, Texas and Homestead and see how things go there.

“My plans haven’t changed from when we started racing when we were young. We’re going to race every week and be at the racetrack. You know, it’s crazy watching the stories and the media and the rampant wildfire that spreads. We’re happy last week that AJ (Allmendinger) pulled out a 12th-place finish, Paul (Menard) was 13th, and I think we would have been a little bit better than that there with AJ at the end but wound up 12th. (I) feel really good about Talladega, and I hope everybody’s writing about one of the Richard Petty Motorsports cars winning on Sunday.”

When asked about the status of the No. 9 Ford, a spokesperson for Budweiser said, “Our policy is to not comment on contractual agreements.” However, rumors of their early departure has been floating around for a week — ever since Kasey Kahne extricated himself from the car after Charlotte.

RPM had planned to run two cars next season with AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose. However, until money can be secured to settle the current debts at RPM, it’s uncertain what the lineup will look like.

“As we go forward, it could be as much as three cars,” Loomis said. “But me talking about three cars is like me talking about having no cars. So I’m not going to speculate on anything until we have the sponsors and the drivers in place. We obviously have had a lot of drivers talk to us about a third car for next year, especially starting the season — we have owners points (and a guaranteed starting spot in the first six races) — but right now we have to shore up and do the best we can do down here at Talladega.”

Multiple sources insist that Richard Petty will divest himself from majority owner George Gillett as early as next week. However, Loomis said he is in constant contact with the Gilletts and they will remain the owners of the company. This weekend on the competition side, Loomis and Sammy Johns, director of operations, are calling the shots.

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“They’re working very hard on the businesses,” Loomis added. “They always have. Like I said, they made a huge commitment last year to put four cars on the racetrack, which gave AJ the opportunity to roll into this season.

“They made the changes through the winter as we came down, put us in a better situation with Ford — to get the Yates engines. The Roush Yates engines have been performing great, especially since we’ve got the new ones that have come on board. And our cars are pretty sporty here at Talladeaga.”

Speaking of Yates, Doug Yates the son of former owner Robert Yates who for years was an admirable fellow Ford competitor to Jack Roush, has been mentioned as a possible player in the Blue Oval camp. With the possibility of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing joining Ford in 2011, as FOXSports.com first reported last Saturday at Martinsville, one scenario features Doug Yates in a partnership with Chip Ganassi where each owner would bring two teams to the table. Yates could inherit the two teams earmarked for RPM if the company dissolves after this season.

Sources from Ford would like to see some friendly competition in their ranks rather than just one company — Roush Fenway Racing — providing all the cars for their competitors. Carl Edwards feels additional teams could help the manufacturer as a whole.

“I don’t know if I’d call it competition, but maybe it would be,” Edwards said. “It always helps me when one of my teammates is running better than me. It makes me faster. If those guys were able to come over and able to be part of our group and they had things that were working better than us, that’s definitely good for us. Hopefully, we could learn from them.

“Just like we talked about last week at Martinsville, we looked at Jamie’s situation and we say, ‘Here’s a guy who changed teams and all of a sudden can run very, very well.’ What I wouldn’t give to know exactly what’s different. That would be huge for us to be able to understand what is different with Jamie running at Roush and Jamie running at Ganassi, because we would hope we could apply that stuff to our cars and make them faster too. So if you could have people like that, that are close and competitive, that are close to you, that would be great.”

Earnhardt Childress Racing Technologies, which provides engines to EGR, was supposed to have a decision from Ganassi this weekend. But according to a Ganassi source, that answer might not come until next week.

“I told Chip I don’t even want to know,” Juan Pablo Montoya said about a possible manufacturer change. “I just want to win.”

Despite the Gillett’s poor track record with the Montreal Canadiens, Liverpool Football Club and now RPM — which was once a thriving motorsports entity with 366 employees, an engine shop, a chassis shop and a research and development department, Loomis still supports the current ownership.

“They’ve been great, and they’ve worked hard and done a lot of things to try to make things happen,” Loomis said. “This is a hard, hard business, and it’s a hard sport to come into when you’ve been involved in other sports. It’s a little bit different from other sports, but they’ve been very committed to trying to make the best of it.

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