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Richard Petty and George Gillett plus Doug Yates and Jack Roush equals........

  Richard Petty (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Richard Petty says George Gillett-owned Richard Petty Motorsports is "basically absorbing" Doug Yates' Ford team, and the legalities should be concluded within two weeks.
   That would appear to mean that Doug Yates himself is giving up his role as a NASCAR team owner, a job handed down to him three years ago by his famous father, who turned engine-building prowess into a position in 1988 as full-fledged NASCAR team owner. The Yates name was once one of the most famous in the sport, with their cars typically in championship contention. However the past few years the Yates have found the going much tougher as car owners.
   And Petty Saturday confirmed that Mark McArdle, his team's director of competition and boss of the engine department, has left the team: "Yesterday (Friday) was his last day."
   McArdle's departure would lend credence to the sense that Gillett will be all but closing down his team's engine department, with its 40 to 80 men, and signing an engine-leasing deal with Yates and Ford, though Petty himself declined to offer any specifics about engines and the engine program.
   "RPM will still own RPM…and I don't think we'll have a partner," Petty said. "Richard Petty Motorsports will stay intact, with the same investors we have."
   RPM is majority-owned by Gillett, who just sold the Montreal Canadiens hockey team for some $500 million.
   But the Paul Menard element is still up in the air. Menard, son of the ultra-wealthy John Menard, is currently Yates' only full-time driver (with rookie Erik Darnell and veteran Bobby Labonte sharing the other Yates Ford).
   So who's going to be in charge of this new 'merged' operation? "The guy with the most money," Petty said with a laugh. "And that ain't me."
   Thus analyzing the 'merger' of Richard Petty Motorsports – the Gillett-owned four-team Dodge operation – with Yates Racing – the Doug Yates-owned two-team Ford operation – is pretty straightforward, even though there are a lot of details yet to be worked out, with only a letter of intent having been signed….
   If the deal goes through: 
   -- Doug Yates himself would apparently move back full-time to the Ford engine room. He and Jack Roush's Roush Fenway company jointly own that Ford motor program;
   -- Gillett, with Petty as the team spokesman, would essentially be the owner of the new operation, under the Ford banner; so Gillett would in effect be buying Yates Racing;
   -- And Jack Roush and Doug Yates could wind up expanding their engineering and engine servicing operations to eight teams, four under the Roush banner and four under the Gillett-Petty banner.
  -- However what would become of Roush's own number 26 team, currently with Jamie McMurray at the wheel and Donnie Wingo as crew chief. And what would happen to promising rookie Erik Darnell, who just made his debut in a Yates Ford last weekend?
   One question – who will drive Petty's number 43?
   Petty himself appears leaning toward AJ Allmendinger.
   "But it depends on how the sponsors. We've got the sponsors, it's just a matter of them figuring out which cars they want to go on, and how they want to use the driver and the team," Petty said.
   "We've got to get on with the process, because it's not too long till Daytona."
   Another question: how well will the Petty-Gillett engine department perform down the stretch, in the championship chase, knowing those jobs are probably gone at the end of the season?
   And what will happen to the Petty-Gillett engine arm?
  "Right now we don't know," Petty insists. "We don't know if we'll do some R&D at our shop for Yates, with that new engine. We haven't gotten into that yet."
   But the deal is indeed going down, Petty says: "We're about 80 percent done.
   "We've agreed this deal is going to happen," Petty says. "It's just a matter now of getting down to the nitty-gritty of how it's going to happen."
   Is this merger really a good deal for the sport?
   Well, first there would be more Ford teams on the track.
   Second, Gillett's own sports marketing expertise, considering both formidable and international, would be brought to bear, to help Ford, Roush-Yates and NASCAR too.
   Third, Gillett's financial clout should be a definite plus, for Ford and the Roush-Yates operation.
   However there are a lot of egos here. And just how well can Petty and Roush themselves work together?
   "We've operated our Dodge stuff on an individual basis…so I don't see why we would need all their (Roush) input…" Petty said carefully.
   "But then if we use their products (engines and engineering), naturally you'd want to know about their products.
   "But we still don't know if we're going to use their products or our products with a different body and engine. All that is still up in the air."
   Considering that Petty's three drivers – Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne – will be in the final year of their contracts in 2010, getting off to a good start next season, for renewals, would be important.
  "But the big deal is finishing up good this year," Petty said. "We can't lose sight of what we've got to do this year, with 11 more races."
   Doug Yates, son of the legendary engine man Robert Yates, is one of the sport's top engine men in his own right. However he has seemed uncomfortable in his other role – as a team owner. Under the apparent plan, Yates could now concentrate on engines, and Gillett and Petty could do the team work.
    Yates himself has been unavailable for comment; Yates' business partner Max Jones says he has no comment yet.
    Gillett too isn't talking.
    The Petty-Gillett-Ford negotiations appear to have been going on in detail for about two weeks, since right after Toyota expressed disinterest in any Petty-Gillett deal. But Ford racing boss Brian Wolfe says he first went to the Gilletts in April, to make a pitch and see what their interest level might be.
    "I don't know if the term 'merger' was used (in the original announcement) was a legal term, but it's pretty clear that whatever combination of operations would happen, it was going to be Richard Petty Motorsports entering four Ford teams next year," Geoff Smith, head of Roush Fenway Racing, says. "That is the intention."
    "This has all come about in the last three months," Petty said. "We've been talking to people, even last year, because you didn't know where Chrysler was at, whether they'd survive. Then they went bankrupt and we had to renegotiate all our contracts with them. Then look at General Motors, they're about in as bad a shape as Chrysler.
   "Now we've got to get all the details settled out on this Yates-Petty thing, so we can go to the sponsors and tell them what's going on. We can't do that right now because we don't know."

  When international sportsman George Gillett (C) first jumped into NASCAR in 2007 (here at Phoenix, meeting the press), he was taking over the reins of the Dodge operation that Ray Evernham had built from scratch. But Gillett hasn't been saying much about anything lately...though it will be hard for him to avoid dealing with his newest blockbuster sports deal (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




George Gillett is financially

George Gillett is financially in over his head. His soccer team, Ansfield Liverpool, has become the biggest weight on his shoulders. If Gillett had done his research, Gillett would have discovered that many of the English soccer teams are highly discouraged from carrying a debt load. Which is why Gillett had to sell his beloved Canadians (after tacking on a $250 million dollar debt for "improvements" to that club) and why Foster Gillett absolutely has no interest in developing any more teams for his father.

Kinda reminds me of the Pettys.

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