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NASCAR officials debating Ginn-Childress 'merger,' while Richard Petty fumes: a spot in the Daytona 500 is at stake

Richard Petty is angry: Is someone trying to pull a fast one? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Richard Petty is miffed with NASCAR.
   Nothing new there, for the King.
   This deal, though, could wind up costing him some big money. Petty is part-owner and apparently full-time spokesman for the new Gillett-Evernham-Petty operation known as Richard Petty Motorsports.
   What, essentially, has happened – though NASCAR officials are still studying the issue and trying to decide just what to do, and they won't talk about the issue until Saturday – is that Richard Childress' surprising new 'deal' to bring in ex-car owner Bobby Ginn as 'minority' owner in Childress' new fourth Cup team has knocked one of the Petty-Gillett cars out of the top-35.
   Now being in the top-35 team owners (which is a different list than top-35 drivers) guarantees each owner a spot in the year's first five races….in particular the Daytona 500.
   Last fall, immediately after the Homestead race, when the final top-35 were listed, Petty says NASCAR told him that he would have one of those top-35 spots – for the number 10 car of Gillett's (which was driven most of the year by Patrick Carpentier), even though that number 10 car finished the year 37th in the standings. That 10 car would advance into the top-35 because several of the real top-35 teams would be disbanded.
   One of those top-35 teams vanishing was the car 01, which was owned jointly by Ginn and Teresa Earnhardt, as part of their 2007 merger, when Ginn had to bail out of the sport for lack of sponsorship. Ginn hasn't been around NASCAR since that August.
   However the ownership loophole is that Ginn still has ownership of 01….which Childress bought into, for an uncertain price, with the prize being a now-guaranteed spot in the Daytona 500 for Clint Bowyer.
   Yes, it's all very complicated, and confusing, and may not really make a lot of sense.
   NASCAR officials have been allowing virtually unchecked shuffling of car owner points since the end of last season. Some teams that ended the year in the top-35 in points – and thus locked into starting spots in the Daytona 500 – have essentially disbanded. But their points are now suddenly very valuable. An automatic entry in the Daytona 500 can be a major plus for a sponsor, just as missing the sport's season opener can  be a decided minus.
   And Petty's operation has been struggling for sponsorship since losing Kellogg's, ironically also to Childress.
   "It puts us in a bad situation with the sponsor, because when we went in, that was part of our selling point," Petty said Friday.
   "All of a sudden, we don't have it. The sponsors don't blame NASCAR, they blame us for taking us down a path.
   "We were where we were, and our concept was that, with some (top-35) teams not coming back, well, they (NASCAR) told us 'Hey, you're in.' So that's what we went by.
   "The only place I worry about is Daytona, because there are so many bad-freaky things that can happen here.
   "I just don't understand it. But then I guess it's not for me to understand it, just to go by what they say.
   "They've got a set of rules somewhere. We just don't have them. They do what they feel like what they've worked themselves into.
   "It was a good rule when it started out, because it gave a new owner coming in here and have the old owner still be involved.
   "But they've gotten away from that.
   "Now it's something that's got a lot of tentacles.
   "The last three or four deals (mergers and team swaps) done were pretty straight-up deals. And everybody understood it, and nobody had any questions.
   "But now there's some murky stuff going on."
   And now NASCAR executives are mulling over the Childress-Ginn and Petty-Gillett situations.
   Petty is exasperated: "We got to race next week. How long are they going to be thinking about it?
   "No matter what rules you throw out there, everybody is going to try to figure out what's best for them.
   "But we were told when Homestead was over that we were in (the top-35 for 2009). So we went out talking to sponsors, and told them 'We're in (the Daytona 500),' so we had more to sell.
   "The last week, last Saturday was the first time I heard that we weren't in….and that they were taking a second look at these things, with all the shuffling of the points deals."
    A decision by NASCAR is expected Saturday.

"Is someone trying to pull a

"Is someone trying to pull a fast one?" Hell yes they are. NASCAR has to figure out they can't send teams home after qualifying anymore - too many sponsors, too many people, and the entire sport are hurt by it.

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