Petty, Yates will join forces under Ford banner

Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing have signed a letter of intent to join forces for 2010.

I can certainly see the positive side of this deal for both parties involved.

Let’s face it, it’s been a struggle the last couple of years for Yates Racing as far as their performance and their ability to sell sponsorships. Obviously, one of the saving graces this year was Paul Menard moving from Dale Earnhardt Inc. over there and bringing the Menard’s sponsorship. But as we saw last year with David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil and even this year with Bobby Labonte, it has been a struggle for this group to secure sponsors. It even got to the point where they had to sell sponsorship and bump Labonte, a former Cup champion, out as a result for a handful of races at the end of this season.

Just like earlier in the year, when Petty Enterprises merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, when you involve Richard Petty’s name with a program, you bring a lot of credibility, popularity and notoriety to it. So that’s certainly the positive side of it for Yates Racing in this deal.

On the side of RPM, it appears that there were not getting the support from Dodge that they would like to be getting. And based on the initial quotes about the announcement, it sounds like Ford is really going to step it up and give this operation as much support as they possibly can.

There’s no question, with Doug Yates and his group working on engines, that RPM will be at the forefront on the engine side. Of course, that’ll only be helped by the new Ford engine which is scheduled to come out this year.

The scariest part for RPM is that they have one car, Kasey Kahne’s, running awfully good, this is still going to be a very big undertaking changing their teams over to the Ford camp from a standpoint of bodies and engines so they are ready to go for 2010.

The one thing I found interesting is that the release announcing this move left a lot of things open-ended. I’m sure this just came to a reality, so many of the details will be ironed out in the coming days and weeks.

It’ll be interesting to see how it all works out.

Larry McReynolds

The new company, which will use the RPM name, will race under the Ford banner and its driver lineup will include Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler and Paul Menard.

No announcement was made about the future of Reed Sorenson, who currently drives the No. 43 Dodge for RPM, or Bobby Labonte, who drives the No. 96 for Yates Racing in a partnership with Hall of Fame Racing.

This marks a return to Ford for Kahne, who started his career driving for the blue oval.

“You know what I like — we have really good cars, but I feel like we need to make some gains engine-wise,” Kahne said. “And Roush-Yates engines are really good, but they can make some gains car-wise. Between all of us working together, we can make some big gains for next year.”

Richard Petty Motorsports is expected to move its operation to the Roush Fenway/Yates Racing Complex in Concord, N.C. In the process, RPM’s engine shop will close which will account for an additional loss of 40 jobs.

The move marks a second merger for the team formerly known as Petty Enterprises in the last two seasons. RPM formed in January when Petty Holdings and Gillett Evernham Motorsports merged.

Petty Enterprises was the most successful team in NASCAR history owning 268 Cup victories since 1949. Gillett Evernham Motorsports, formerly Evernham Motorsports, was Dodge’s flagship team when it re-entered the sport in 2001 and recorded 15 victories before joining forces with Petty.

“This is a pretty big deal for us,” team namesake Richard Petty said in a release announcing the Yates deal. “We’re thrilled to partner with Ford. We’ve talked with a lot of folks, but in the end it came down to the success the Gilletts and I think we can achieve with Ford Racing.

“Right now this deal is real new. There are lots of details still left to be ironed out so we don’t have a lot of answers for anyone right now. We’ll be working on all that in the coming days, weeks and months, but we do intend to have everything in place before the start of next season. I’ve won races with Ford and plan to again.”

The news means Petty will be ditching Dodge just weeks after Dodge president and CEO Mike Accavitti reaffirmed the brand’s commitment to the sport but on a smaller scale.

“We’re not a big organization,” Accavitti said at Michigan in August. “We haven’t really been. We need to start acting like the organization that we are. We’re nimble and we’re smaller than the other guys. And we feel like if we focus our resources on fewer teams that we can produce better results.

“You really only need (about) three good drivers — good cars, I should say, good teams — and that would be sufficient for us. We’ll strike the appropriate balance where we can have a good Sunday afternoon for our Dodge fans.”