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George Gillett speaks! And finally reveals some details about his NASCAR plans...including possible race tracks in the Middle East

  George Gillett, the power behind the King, is lining up some heavy-duty Middle Eastern sponsors, who may even build some NASCAR-type tracks over there (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   George Gillett Jr., the power and the money behind Richard Petty Motorsports, held a lively, energetic 30-minute press conference Saturday at Kansas Speedway and made several points:
   -- He does indeed plan to remain in NASCAR, to win races, and to win the championship eventually, and he dismissed reports of "chaos" at RPM;
   -- His 'merger' plans with Ford's Doug Yates (a partner with Jack Roush) are on track;
   -- He plans at least a three-driver lineup in 2010, possibly four, but he declined to provide names, though he indicated Kasey Kahne and AJ Allmendinger were in his long-term plans;
   -- His financial discussions with Prince Faisal bin Fahad bin Abdulla of Saudi Arabia include a possible small ownership stake in RPM by the prince, which Gillett said would be a very small stake, just to cover legalities about confidentiality agreements;
   -- He declined to talk much about the Liverpool (UK) soccer situation and its seemingly tangled financial situation;
   -- He repeatedly emphasized that many of his talks with new financial supporters concerning NASCAR were "in the very early stages," but he said that those people had identified 14 possible locations in the Middle East for potential NASCAR-type race tracks, including two current road course, and said any such new tracks would likely be small ovals.

   Gillett, who was in Europe the past several days, said "When I came back, I came back to a maelstrom of massively inaccurate stories. I was watching practice on television yesterday and somehow someone has given them the wrong story. So we want to get to a baseline and move forward.
   "Let's talk about what has transpired in the Middle East: three years ago when we got into NASCAR we were alerted to the fact that one of the things to look at was that at the end of the season we would have a lot of cars we couldn't use the following year, so we should look for places to put those."
   While talking with other sportsmen back then, about creating and expanding soccer academies in the Middle East, the subject of racing came up in "social conversation about those folks' love of speed," Gillett said. "And we found out that the people we were talking to were advisers to the king, in terms of overall sports in the Middle East in their particular countries. They have the rights to Formula One off-shore boat racing….so it was natural to talk about stock car racing.
   "During those conversations the light went on, and I said 'What an opportunity this would be if we could create a development series in the Middle East for stock cars.'
   "And that's what's happened. We have had extended conversations now about developing a race series.
   "There are several extraordinarily good road tracks there. But they have identified 14 sites, or more, in the Middle East, where you might put an oval track or two, or 14."


  NASCAR team owner George Gillett (R) says Dodge has done a very good job of handling the touchy situation of Gillett's pending switch to Fords (Photo: Richard Petty Motorsports)


   This past weekend Gillett was with 'the lead principal of that group.' And he signed a confidentiality agreement. "In the midst of that conversation, it became clear that we should have aligned interests – and if they would buy a small interest in RPM we would have aligned interests and we could have open discussions, without worries about 'confidentiality.' Majority interest? Heck, no.
  "There have been no negotiations or discussions of 'value.' It was a very early conversation.
  "I come here today with a clean conscience and a potentially very attractive partner. If he or they become small investors with us, I can't imagine it would be anything but positive for this sport."

   The merger deal with Yates "is on track. We are going now from letter of intent (LOI) to formal contract," Gillett said.
   And Gillett said he wanted one of his current teams to run a Ford "before the end of the year."
   The location of the merged Gillett-Petty-Yates-Roush operation? "We have looked at three or four different sites....we have looked south of our current shop in Statesville, and we have looked at our Statesville shops," Gillett said. "No decision has been made. But the people looking for us are looking (apparently primarily) at the current Yates' site (which is on the Roush compound, in Concord)."
    Building stock car tracks in the Middle East?
   "My instinct tells me it would pretty much be oval tracks," Gillett said.
    But then he again pointed out many of his talks in this area are preliminary: "We are trying to be open and to correct early some of the misimpressions…but releasing the information about the LOI (Letter of Intent to merge with Yates, released three weeks ago) was in retrospect probably not the way to go, because we raised more questions than answers.
   "It is very, very early in the process, and I really don't have all the answers to your questions.
   "But the general concept is that we would be looking at shorter tracks, rather than longer tracks. We will be doing analysis.
   "What I presume, if we do something in the Middle East, it will probably have development series at the local or regional level, and then it will have an overall series program perhaps among all the tracks.
  "They have a tremendous interest in speed, and they love automobiles. When you go over there, it really sets you back; I don't think any of us really idea of the respect they have for this kind of engineering, this kind of racing. They have only had Formula One available…and when they see this kind of rubbin' and racin', it will be very popular.
   "But nobody has done anything, nobody has done any investing. This is purely in the early talking stages. It came about because we signed a letter of understanding, to protect confidential information."

  George Gillett: A stock car series in the Middle East? (Photo: Richard Petty Motorsports)

   Back to NASCAR here, who will drive for RPM in 2010? Will Paul Menard, one of Yates' current drivers, be on the team? Elliott Sadler?
   "We will for sure have three teams, hopefully four," Gillett said. "No names."
   And despite pressure Gillett declined to offer specific drivers' names.
   With the pending switch from Dodge to Ford, is Gillett confident he and Kahne will be able to be competive in their Dodges the rest of this season? 
   "I have to say Dodge has acted extraordinarily responsibly…frankly, given what they've gone through, surprisingly responsibily," Gillett replied. "They have continued to give us the support, and they have continued it at a very high level. You can see that the Penske (Dodge) team and ours have been increasingly competitive.
   "Dodge has been a very good partner."

   And what, really, is George Gillett's long-range plan for his NASCAR operations? After all, he just sold the Montreal Canadiens, a prize franchise.
   "There are two answers: One, we're private, and where we're going, frankly, is our business. And we're not going to telegraph," Gillett replied.
   "If the question is 'Do we plan on being in NASCAR?' Heck, yes.
   "'Do we plan to be partners with Richard Petty?' You bet.
   "'Do we plan on winning races, on winning a championship or two in the next few years?' Absolutely.
   "'Do we plan to do it with mostly the people we currently have, Kasey and AJ and so forth?' Yes.
   "Beyond that, I don't know. We work on a three-year planning cycle."

Sounds like Bobby Ginn

Sounds like Bobby Ginn

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