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Richard Petty faces a crossroads in his legendary career: can he save Richard Petty Motorsports?

 Richard Petty (L), with Junior Johnson (C) and NASCAR CEO Brian France: What's the future for Richard Petty Motorsports? Still no answers....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern



   Richard Petty?
   What in the world is going on here, with one of the most famous names in NASCAR?
   What's really going on behind the scenes with Richard Petty and the four-team NASCAR operation that carries his name?

   Nobody involved is saying much at all, and the Petty crews say they're in the dark too.
   It looks like Wachovia/Wells Fargo holds a note on the team for between $70 million and $90 million, for a loan George Gillett got some three years ago.
   However the team, Richard Petty Motorsports, certainly doesn't appear to have anywhere near that much in assets, if the bank were to attempt to liquidate the operation.
   What is Richard Petty Motorsports really worth?
   What is the Richard Petty name worth to NASCAR?
   Petty has only a minority stake in the team, but he is trying to save the operation and insists "I'm not going anywhere."
   Petty himself will probably still be around for a while, but this particular racing operation might not be.
   While Petty himself appears to be shopping around to find financial backing to take over majority interest in RPM, it doesn't look like he's been very successful so far. According to one report, Petty has tried to find interest in Toyota but got nowhere; the team currently fields Fords.
   A cursory examination of the whole situation would seem to raise serious question as to how successful Petty might be.
   Gillett, the international sportsman who owned the Montreal Canadiens and the Liverpool, England, soccer team, bought majority interest in Ray Evernham's Dodge team in 2007. Since then, however, Gillett has struggled with all his various sports franchises, and he has been fighting the forced sale of that Liverpool team to the John Henry-run company that owns the Boston Red Sox.
   RPM has four drivers here, Paul Menard, AJ Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler and Aric Almirola. Menard is leaving at the end of the season; Sadler won't be back either. Allmendinger is the only driver under contract for 2011. Almirola is filling in following the unexpected departure of Kasey Kahne last week. Marcos Ambrose earlier this season agreed to drive for the Petty team next season but there is apparently no signed contract yet.
    The only significant sponsorship the Petty team has for next season is with Stanley.
   But it is unclear if RPM will be able to finish out the season.
   It seems all too reminiscent of the final days of Teresa Earnhardt's DEI operation, which had four top-35 teams but, after losing linchpin Dale Earnhardt Jr., and most sponsorship, was forced to 'merge' with Chip Ganassi...and the decline and fall of the Bobby Ginn operation.
   The bank could refinance or restructure the RPM loan, as Gillett has wanted. Not likely.
   The bank could just ignore the problems and hope the team's fortunes eventually improve. But the prospect of RPM becoming a $90 million-valued operation any time soon seems dim.
   The bank could simply take over the team and try to run it itself. Why?
   Or the bank could shut the doors and sell the assets. A 'traditional' solution...
   But whatever happens to the RPM team, a question is what might happen next to Richard Petty himself.



Very sad

Richard is a great man and an icon to the sport. It's a shame to witness the slow dissolution of the operation. Plenty of good folks at RPM. I hope Gillett mans up and does the right thing. Although his fortunes seem to be dwindling even faster. Hated to see Kasey leave like he did. Just looks like a complete mess from the outside. Probably looks even worse from the inside. Very sad indeed.

What about Dodge?

With only one backed team in the Cup series, Penske, shouldn't Ralph Gilles and Dodge have enough $$$ now to bring Petty back into the fold? The Petty name & Dodge goes together like peanut butter and jelly. And besides, with Petty's "side" business deal of building MOPAR High Performance cars, seems like a no-brainer to me.

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