Richard Petty Motorsports' Demise Continues, and Survival May Not Be an Option

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IApril 20, 2010

HAMPTON, GA - SEPTEMBER 06:  Kasey Kahne, driver of the #9 Budweiser Dodge and team owner Richard Petty celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 6, 2009 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

The effort to maintain a NASCAR Sprint Cup team bearing the name of legendary NASCAR driver Richard Petty is futile at best.

The financial disarray of George Gillett is enough to cause a meltdown at Richard Petty Motorsports.  Despite defaulting on loans totaling $70-90 million, George Gillett and his son Foster claim they will restructure and flourish.

Should Gillett allow the banks to seize the assets of RPM, he remains protected.  The financier has shown little loyalty to drivers in his capacity as an owner.

Kasey Kahne turned in his resignation effective at the end of this season to pursue a dream job with Hendrick Motorsports.

The ringing of the death knell will reverberate in the confines of RPM as their marquis driver walks out the door.

Richard Petty made every attempt to salvage his racing enterprise with merger-mania.  Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Yates Racing have combined to create the latest genre of Richard Petty Motorsports.

The history between Petty and Dodge became null and void, as association with Ford was mandated through involvement with Yates Racing.

The sponsorship of lead driver Kahne is up in the air for the time being.  It is doubtful Budweiser would remain with a somewhat unstable team.

The departure of their cornerstone driver and his sponsor is the first nail in the coffin of RPM.

Three drivers remain at Richard Petty Motorsports: A.J. Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler and Paul Menard.  The contracts for the drivers and their sponsors expire at the end of 2010.

It is hardly a stretch to believe that major sponsors will start to bail from the RPM drivers.  The loan exception is Paul Menard whose wealthy father wields the pocketbook for his car. 

Paul is improving this season and finally shows promise.  He and his father's money would be attractive to other teams.

Paul could strike another nail in the RPM coffin should he take his sponsorship with him to the open market in 2011.

A.J. Allmendinger has made strides with his driving this season and even secured a pole position.

Allmendinger could prove to be the primary beneficiary of Kahne's departure.  He may still drive the No. 43, but rest assured the equipment from the Kasey's car would be his.

Kenny Francis, crew chief for Kahne, more than likely will not get an invitation to Hendrick Motorsports.  He may be the most talented crew chief at RPM and if money can keep him there he should assume duties with Allmendinger.

But in a flight to security the "Dinger" and Francis could seek employment elsewhere, thus striking yet another blow to RPM.

Elliott Sadler remains the loan ranger in question.  His record is hardly stellar and his sponsors may jump ship after this season.

Richard Petty Motorsports is hardly viable with Sadler as lead driver.  They would be hovering near intensive care status even with Allmendinger, Sadler and Menard.  The only strong remaining sponsor might be Menard's.

Each of the four drivers at RPM vow to drive their hearts out the remainder of this season as if their survival as NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers depends on it.  The fact is except for Kahne, that very well may be the case.

Richard Petty is paid to be the face of Richard Petty Motorsports.  He is at the mercy of George and Foster Gillett.

George Gillett faces yet more financial woes with his Liverpool soccer team in England.  A loan in the range of $237 million is reported to be in the restructuring process.

There is nothing attractive to sponsors or drivers at RPM.  Even Petty himself has probably grown tired of the ongoing saga.

Soon Richard will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  Now may be the perfect time to forfeit his motorsport ownership persona.

The business stress may be more than Petty cares to endure.  At 72, he has enough to worry about as his wife Linda fights a serious illness.

The era of a team run by King Richard has already met it's demise.  Only the Petty name and Kasey Kahne have attracted long term quality sponsorship.

One by one drivers and sponsors will leave, financial woes will continue and Petty himself may no longer want to stay with the company that bears his name.

With each event that begins to unfold, another nail goes into the RPM coffin.  It just may be time for this organization to be laid to rest in 2011.