Petty-Yates Merger Is New Start for Some, End for Others, and Just Hazy for Rest

David YeazellSenior Analyst ISeptember 11, 2009

Today’s merger between Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing is certainly another sign of the times. It also signals the end of an era for each team involved and possibly the beginning of the end for Dodge in Sprint Cup.

The ripple effects of today’s decision could have a profound impact on each team involved and a few not involved.   

Robert Yates founded Robert Yates Racing over 20 years ago after purchasing the race team assets from Harry Ranier and J.T. Lundy. The late Davey Allison was the first driver for the newly formed team.

Over the years Yates saw success with drivers like Allison, Dale Jarrett, and Ernie Ervin. Although RYR did win one championship, it was the Yates engines that struck fear in the competitors.

On Dec. 1, 2007, Robert Yates handed the reins of his racing empire to his son Doug. Since that time, Yates Racing hasn’t had much to celebrate on the track except mediocrity.

While the complete details of today’s merger are still hazy, one thing is very clear: Yates Racing is more than likely the first on a growing list of former powerhouse teams to disappear.

Richard Petty has had an on-again, off-again lifelong relationship with Dodge. Petty has driven some of the most famous, and most sought after, automobiles in the history of Chrysler-Plymouth Dodge. Buick Regals, Ford Torinos, and the Pontiac Grand Prix were also part of the Petty stable through the years. Petty didn’t find near as much success with those manufacturers as he did with Dodge.

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Today’s merger announcement is twofold: It brings an end to that 50-year relationship, and it leaves Penske Racing as the only team fielding Dodge cars.

The newly formed team will still race under the Richard Petty Motorsports banner. Although George Gillette is listed as the senior managing partner at RPM (technically the company owner), it’s the allure of the Petty name that draws the sponsors.

Mergers can be a good thing. Shared resources, information, technology, and secrets are just a few critical necessities important during the merger of a race team. Personnel, essential or non-essential, is probably the most duplicated resource. The majority of RPM employees were laid off earlier in the year because of cutbacks and depleting factory funds from Dodge.

This once unfortunate set of events could now have a silver lining. The impact of removing duplicitous employees should be very minimal.

Two employees who have become suddenly non-essential are Reed Sorenson and Jamie McMurray.

McMurray is employed by Roush-Fenway, but lack of sponsorship for next year had his future uncertain. Rumors were flying that McMurray would move over to Yates next year.

This situation could be playing right into the hands of McMurray. While seemingly unemployed, he actually might now be a front runner for the recently vacated Martin Truex ride at EGR.

The complexity of a merger raises many questions. This weekend at Richmond the tape recorders will be working overtime as members of the media are certain to quiz each of the players in this developing story.