Richard Petty Motorsports, most often associated with the NASCAR "King" Richard Petty, has gained notoriety for a new reason recently. RPM can now be dubbed the "King" of the swap.
Last weekend, at Michigan International Speedway, Richard Petty Motorsports swapped crew chiefs, teams and even the cars between the No. 43 car driven by Reed Sorenson and the No. 44 car driven by A.J. Allmendinger.
Allmendinger swapped crew chiefs to now be paired with Mike Shiplett and his crew. Sorenson was matched with Sammy Johns and crew, who had previously been with Allmendinger.
According to RPM team officials, "Everything was swapped between the No. 43 and the No. 44, except the drivers, car numbers and the sponsors."
"Ultimately, we are always looking for performance," said a RPM spokesperson. "Paring the crew chiefs and drivers with new faces gives us a better chance to garner the information needed to make our cars better."
Both Allmendinger and Sorenson put the best spin possible on the big swap. "I'm pumped about working with Mike (Shiplett) and his crew again," Allmendinger said.
Allmendinger and his new crew chief went testing at Dover prior to running at Michigan International Speedway. Allmendinger admitted that the focus after the swap is now on improving for the 2010 season.
"Mike and I want to work on everything that will make us a contender the rest of the season," Allmendinger advised. "We will hit the ground running in February."
Sorenson also had a positive take on the swap. "We kind of look at it as a fresh start," Sorenson said. "Sammy (Johns) has a ton of experience and a lot of knowledge that I hope to use."
The verdict was still out on the swap after the Michigan race. An RPM team official said it was too early to tell if the swap was successful.
Both teams advised that there were off to a fairly good start and had "something to build on." Allmendinger finished in the 22nd position at Michigan, while Sorenson took the 29th spot.
Allmendinger lost one spot in the points standings with his Michigan finish, dropping from 24th to 25th. Sorenson actually gained a spot, moving from the 29th to the 28th position.
RPM Director of Competition Mark McArdle summed the swap up. "Each team has had its own challenges," stated McArdle bluntly. "We're still searching, and that's why we're making the changes."
In spite of the Allmendinger and Sorenson switch, the swapping at Richard Petty Motorsports proved to not yet be over. RPM announced today that the crew chief for the No. 19 Stanley Dodge driven by Elliott Sadler was being swapped out.
Kevin Buskirk, current crew chief for Sadler, is being reassigned and will be swapped over to assist Kasey Kahne in his bid for the championship chase. Kahne is currently in the eighth spot in the points standings.
Sadler will welcome his new interim crew chief Wally Rogers. Rogers is known to the Sadler team already, having served as the car chief.
"Wally is one of those guys that you know is going to be pretty special in this sport,” Sadler said. “He’s young, smart, but still has a ton of experience."
"We’ve worked great this season," Sadler continued. "Wally has been the leader of the crew guys on our team, so the transition will be pretty easy."
In addition to this newest swap, rumors still persist about a possible manufacturer swap for Richard Petty Motorsports, from Dodge to Toyota.
While RPM Director of Competition Mark McArdle advises that no formal decision has been made, Kasey Kahne confirmed that he has recently done a series of photo shoots with a Budweiser-sponsored No. 9 Toyota Camry.
"We've got decisions in front of us," McArdle said. "We've got options as to what direction to go, and our ownership is going to have to decide which way they feel is going to be the best route for us as an organization in the long term."
There is, however, a more positive swap potentially in store for Richard Petty Motorsports. Kasey Kahne, driving in the Nationwide Series at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, may swap a race win for a $500,000 donation to Children's Miracle Network.
Braun Racing will be fielding Kahne's ride, the No. 10 McDonald's Angus Third Pound Burger car. Braun is running this car for the Bristol weekend in partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports
Kahne, a past winner in 2007 of the Bristol Nationwide race, is participating in the "Racing for a Miracle" program created by Stanley, the Ace Hardware Foundation and the Children's Miracle Network. The purpose of the "Racing for a Miracle" promotion is to help provide care to sick and injured children.
Whether the crew chief swaps on the track for Richard Petty Motorsports will pay off still remains to be seen. And it will most certainly be major news if RPM makes a manufacturer swap.
But the possible swap off the track for charity solidifies RPM as the true "King" of the swap.