Ford bosses optimistic about Petty team
Ford Director of North American Motorsports Jamie Allison remains optimistic that Richard Petty Motorsports will survive beyond this season.
Although a meeting that was scheduled between Richard Petty, Allison and Edsel Ford II on Friday was moved to Saturday afternoon, Allison is “confident” that Petty will field cars for A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose in 2011.
“This is a daily conversation that goes on between the team, its new investor and its new partner,” Allison said. “We want to see an orderly transfer of ownership to Richard Petty and his new ownership group. We are involved. We are offering any assistance that we can, but ultimately it has to come down to the investment group and Richard Petty and that group.
“I am more confident today than I was at the start of this development, but we await just like you — confirmation from the team.”
Allison insists that Ford did not subsidize any of the recent expenses that RPM has accrued since majority team owner George Gillett went underground following the loss of his Liverpool Football Club. Until this weekend, Gillett had not been seen at a track since Charlotte last month. Throughout the period, RPM’s debt climbed, particularly through engines and chassis.
“The business transactions that are taking place here are directly between the investment group, Roush, RPM, its debtors and the bank,” Allison said. “Ford is not involved in the transactions that are taking place here. None of us, I’m sure the Gilletts, Richard Petty, (Jack) Roush and Ford, none of us wanted to see us be in the flux that this is. Because it’s hard enough to compete at the highest level dealing with all the moving parts let alone have a business part kind of derail your attention.
“But it is a fact of life. In life and in business we deal with moving parts and this is a moving part. I hope to see a satisfactory conclusion that would allow the teams and us and Jack and everybody to focus on next year. We’re very excited about the prospects of the drivers and the sponsors but this business transaction needs to sort itself out.”
The original owner of the team, Ray Evernham, has extended his support to Richard Petty “in any way that (he) can.” After growing one the most successful motorsports operations in NASCAR, it pains the former championship crew chief to see what the company has been reduced to. But he has no interest in owning a Sprint Cup team at this time.
“I offered to help Richard close the deal, whether that meant that he needed a bridge loan of whatever to move that forward,” Evernham said. “At this time he has not needed that. I know he’s trying really hard to buy some interest, but it’s just really complicated, really complicated legally. I think he’ll successfully get it done, it’s just not coming together as quickly as everyone would like.
“The money is there if he needs it. Again, I will help him any way I can legally as long as it doesn’t put me in jeopardy because now I have to fight for a lot of money that is owed to me, too. It’s very complicated legally, but we’re going to do what we need to do to help Richard.”
Evernham’s desire to see RPM endure is not self-serving. For the good of NASCAR as whole, it needs RPM.
“It‘s in the best interest for RPM to survive. They‘re a good team. They have great potential. And I want to see them make it. It doesn‘t affect me one way or another financially if it continues or goes bankrupt. The thing about it going bankrupt, then there‘s more jobs lost and we‘ve already seen between Richard‘s place and mine at least 300 jobs lost. And that‘s just ridiculous.”
Sources have told FOXSports.com that Andrew Murstein’s Medallion Financial Corp. is the investment group.
“I’ve had conversations with the investment team and I have signs of hope,” Allison said. “But like you, I await the confirmation. I’m an eternal optimist. A lot of heart is in here, a lot of determination, a lot of will. We are behind it.
“Everyone involved understands the gravity and the importance of retaining the tradition that is called Richard Petty Motorsports, Richard Petty himself. I am hopeful that we will see a hopeful ending soon.”
So is Petty.
In addition to the normal demands of trying to keep RPM afloat, the King has been involved with the recovery of wife Lynda.
“It’s a regular day in the life of Richard Petty,” said the seven-time champion. “If it wasn’t this it would be something else — whether it’s family or business or the (Victory Junction Gang Camp). Lynda’s getting better every day. When you’ve been flat on your back for eight months, you just don’t get up and walk off.”
Petty acknowledged that a new deal to reorganize RPM has not “landed on all four feet yet”. But the outpouring of support that Petty has received from the NASCAR garage has been “unreal” throughout this latest challenge.
“You feel like a family member. Everyone has treated the whole situation like it was part of their family. It really humbles you when think about it, it’s like ’Golly!’ because you didn’t think that that many people knew you existed. Even though we compete against each other they’re still family. When one gets down it doesn’t matter how mad you are at them, you’re going to try to get him back up. We’ve lost a lot of that in here, but not all of it.”