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Richard Petty jumps to Ford and merges with Yates-Roush!

  Richard Petty and Kasey Kahne: Dodge's loss is Ford's gain. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Richard Petty, fresh off Kasey Kahne's victory in Sunday night's Atlanta 500, has pulled another surprise – and this one is a doozy: he and business partner George Gillett have just signed a deal to merge with Ford's Doug Yates, who heads Ford's NASCAR engine program and who runs a Jack Roush 'satellite' operation on the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour.
   So Dodge – which lost Petty back in the Sixties to Ford, and which lost Petty in the Seventies and Eighties to General Motors – is now once again losing Petty.
   No word from Michael Accavitti, Dodge's racing boss. And no word from Toyota's Lee White, who said two weeks ago that Dodge probably had the inside track with Petty, and who thus indicated that Toyota – last year on Gillett's to-do list in NASCAR – was no longer in the running for the seven-time NASCAR champion.
   Officially the announcement is that the Petty-Gillett operation, which runs under the logo Richard Petty Motorsports, and Yates Racing "have signed a letter of intent to merge operations in time for the 2010 season. The four-car team will race Fords under the Richard Petty Motorsports banner."
    Who will be the drivers? At the moment it looks like Paul Menard (currently with Yates) will join Kahne, Elliott Sadler and AJ Allmendinger. What happens to Darnell and Reed Sorenson and number 43 is unclear.
    Petty, who had given no inkling of such a move, called it "a pretty big deal for us."
    Understatement there.
   "We've talked with a lot of folks, but in the end it came down to the success the Gilletts and I think we can achieve with Ford," Petty said.
    "Right now this deal is real new. There are lots of details still left to be ironed out. So we don't have a lot of answers for anyone right now.
    "We'll be working on all that in the coming days, weeks and months. But we do intend to have everything in place before the start of next season."
    Foster Gillett, who helps manage the Petty team for his father George, said Sunday's victory was the clincher: "And Ford is going to provide the support we need to go to victory lane more often.
    "If you are going to compete with the other teams in this sport you need a lot of support."
    Petty himself earlier this summer dissed Dodge for not keeping up with the checks that he expected, because of Chrysler's bankruptcy.
    Toyota was considered in the running for the Petty name, and sponsors like Budweiser and Best Buy certainly provide a marketing advantage, which Gillett pointed out: "We bring a lot to this relationship.  
    "We've won twice this season (including that Sonoma surprise by Kahe). And the power of Richard Petty is hard to beat.
   "Plus we have the support of some of the biggest names in corporate America."
   Max Jones, who helps Yates run the operation, says "over the coming weeks we will work to lay out the best plan for Paul Menard and all of the employees at Yates Racing. We will continue to field both teams (with Menard and Bobby Labonte and rookie Erik Darnell swapping the other ride) the remainder of the season."
    For Yates, the move is ironic in one respect – his father Robert built the engine that Petty himself used to win at Daytona in 1984 in front of President Reagan.
    Yates, who has struggled as a car owner this year, and who hasn't been at a track in months, called the merger "clearly in the best interest of the Ford racing community."
    For Brian Wolfe, Ford's racing boss, the move – almost certainly pulled together in part by marketing guru Geoff Smith, head of Roush Fenway Racing – is something of  a coup, and certainly highly unexpected. "I am very pleased that Richard Petty Motorsports has made the decision to switch to Ford," Wolfe said. "They had choices other than Ford, and it's gratifying to us they have enough faith in Ford Motor Company and what we're doing to make the switch.
   "We believe we can provide them with superior analytical tools and power-train engineering. We will work with them closely on the technical front to help them become even more competitive."

How The Heck Did This

How The Heck Did This Happen?

It was pretty obvious that Dodge had blown it with Petty, but Ford getting this team was totally out of left field. Yes, Petty had run Fords before, but that was for one year and it didn't turn out as well for either side as they thought it would. Re-teaming with Yates can help, but the alliance with Roush troubles me because Yates had an alliance with Roush beginning in 2004 and all it did was kill Yates' team and benefit Roush.

Dodge has no one to blame but itself for this. Dodge had three good teams in Petty, Davis, and Evernham when it started up the Winston Cup effort - then Ganassi horned his way into the program and got a public rebuke for it from Davis at Bristol in August 2000. Ganassi horded up Dodge's engineering backing and Lou Patane, who'd headed the program since the Truck Series program began, got shoved aside by Stuttgart, and the One Team effort Patane, Petty, Davis, and Evernham had going got all but torn up. When the infamous 2001 Daytona 500 got underway it became obvious what a disorganized mess the Dodge program had become even though Dodges won 11 times 2001-2, and letting Penske horn in on the program in 2003 only made it worse for everyone else.

Shame on Dodge - they should never have let Ganassi or Penske get so much control of the program; the One Team approach should have been the overriding policy from the very first practice lap of 2001 onward.

I'm no fan of Ford, but I root for Petty, so I hope this works for them.

Surprise, Surprise!!! Though

Surprise, Surprise!!! Though the COT really has no make, it is somewhat of surprise to see the team jump to Ford. So Penske is the only Dodge team left?

this is interesting, Jack

this is interesting, Jack Roush will always be the premier Ford team. Just as RCR has lost funding from GM which seems to have been moved to Tony Steward, I suspect Richard Petty Motor Sports will continue to slide. Poor Kasey Kahne may never win again.

Look for Dodge to either pour all its racing money to Penske or make an offer to RCR or Ganassi.

Kahne was always loyal to Ray Evernham, maybe Kahne will be Penske's 4th driver for 2011.

I am not sure I see the logic

I am not sure I see the logic in this move. RPM is currently a winning team and yet they are merging with a team that is the poster child for good teams going bad. Yates performance is lackluster at best and overall Ford has only two wins this year with the far superior Roush organization(and one of those was with rain luck.) I think Kaseys fanbase should not delete last weeks win from their DVR because it may be his last one for a while.

Yates' performance is

Yates' performance is lackluster because they're not getting the help they need from Roush. This is where I'm crossing my fingers on this deal - that it doesn't just benefit Roush, that it benefits Petty. Roush is not a superior organization in talent, they are far superior in the technology arms race.

Why do 95% of Americans hate

Why do 95% of Americans hate Ford? Which company didn't have to take money from our pockets and have to be run by Government Motors now? I think its strange that every time a Ford team gets competitive or wins more than a couple races there is an instant rule change. I guess we will all be driving the same Government Motor Corp. vehicles sometime soon, NASCAR will be totally electric and GREEN if Government Motors get their wish.

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