Richard Petty Motorsports is switching manufactures. Yes, it’s true. Yes, it’s official.
When it has come to manufacturers, RPM has been rumored to do just about anything. From staying with Dodge, to switching to Toyota, and even to switch to Chevrolet and use Hendrick engines.
Never once was Ford even mentioned. That is, until today.
This afternoon, RPM pulled a fast one(pun intended) on everybody in and outside of the NASCAR world when the team announced it would be switching to Ford and, more surprisingly, absorbing a struggling Yates Racing team.
There are several things that have not been ironed out yet, namely whether the team, which will still be known as Richard Petty Motorsports, will continue to use the RPM(Evernham) engines, or if they will switch to the Roush-Yates engines that Yates Racing currently uses.
Here are a few things we do know:
-Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, and AJ Allmendinger will continue to drive for RPM
-They will be joined by Paul Menard
-Reed Sorenson is out at RPM
-The #9, #19, and #43 will remain at RPM. Either the #44 or #98 will be the 4th car.
-The #96 and #26 will not be a part of the team
Here’s why that last part is significant. Jamie McMurray was expected to be in the #26 in 2010 and join Yates Racing in order to keep him under the Roush umbrella. Now that Yates is suddenly a four-car team(the limit in NASCAR), there is no room for McMurray.
So what else we don’t know is where McMurray and Sorenson will go. According to Sorenson, he has known for a few weeks that he was going to be out, and he has been ride-searching. He also claims that a few of his sponsors(though unnamed) would like to follow him to his next ride.
A couple of rumors on where McMurray and Bobby Labonte(driver: #96) may go:
-McMurray has been rumored to go to Earnhardt-Ganassi to take over the #1 car, left open by Martin Truex Jr.
-Labonte has been rumored to stay with Hall of Fame Racing, who had a partnership with Yates, but wanted to end it after 2009 anyway. HoF is now freed up to do what it wants, and may keep Labonte as well as the #96.
Finally, my take on all of these events:
Did RPM need to switch manufacturers? After its recent runs, I’m not really sure. I was dead set that they should a few months ago. But recently, the team’s performance has been better. At least, Kasey Kahne’s has. However, I don’t believe that a switch is a bad idea, especially not to a proven manufacturer like Ford, despite its struggles in 2009. And it’s good to see that the King decided to stick with an American manufacturer.
However, the absorbance of Yates I’m not sure about. Yates hasn’t really been relevant since 2004, when Elliott Sadler made the inaugaral Chase. But up until this year, it had been awhile since the Petty name was relevant. And we see how that’s turned out so far. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.