Evernham, Kyle Petty take backseat on merged team

Updated: January 19, 2009, 6:28 PM ET
Associated Press

CONCORD, N.C. -- Ray Evernham and Kyle Petty are unlikely to have significant roles -- if any -- in the newly formed Richard Petty Motorsports.

The team was created earlier this month when Petty Enterprises merged its sponsor-strapped organization with Gillett Evernham Motorsports. The new team name, RPM, was announced Monday.

The elder Petty said Monday that Evernham, who sold controlling interest of Evernham Motorsports to the Gillett family in August 2007 and has acted since as a consultant, will continue in that capacity.

Kyle Petty, who has been cutting back on his driving, will continue to do part-time work on TV and some sports car racing.

"He's been working his way out of the Cup situation," Richard said. "As we go along in our process, from time to time we might want him to run a race or two."

The elder Petty, the seven-time Cup champion and one of the sport's most recognizable names, said his role in the new team won't be much different than what it has been.

"I'm going to basically be doing the same thing I've been doing for the last eight or 10 years; nothing, as much as I can," Petty said, drawing a laugh from the crowd at the NASCAR media tour. "I'll just (be) doing the Richard Petty thing."

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STEWART RIDE: Even with all the work and hassle of getting his own Stewart Haas Racing team running, two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart is branching out.

The longtime Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who left that team at the end of the 2008 season, will try to qualify a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the Nationwide Series race in February at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart, the defending champion of the Camping World 300, has won the season-opening race in the second-tier series three times -- twice for car owner Kevin Harvick (2005 and 2006) and last year with Gibbs.

"We're going to try and get another one, this time for Rick (Hendrick)," said Stewart, who has seven career Nationwide victories. "Rick and I have been friends for years, so it would mean a lot to me to get a win for him."

Stewart, who drove Toyotas for Gibbs last year, will drive Chevrolets for his new team.

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PENSKE-VERIZON: Details are still being worked out on what exactly Verizon can do this season as a sponsor of David Stremme's car at Penske Racing.

The wireless communications company earlier this month completed its purchase of Alltel, the longtime primary sponsor of the No. 12 Dodge. But Verizon can't display any logos or market itself under the 2004 agreement that made Nextel (now Sprint) the top sponsor of NASCAR's Cup Series.

To meet many of NASCAR's restrictions, the car will be branded as the Penske Racing Dodge Charger.

Existing team and track relationships with wireless communications companies were allowed to continue, but those relationships were not allowed to change teams or companies.

Verizon also will fund a Nationwide Series car for Penske's Justin Allgair, who will run a full Nationwide schedule. Verizon had sponsored a Gillett Evernham Motorsports car in that series for a partial schedule last season.

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POINTS SWITCH: Bobby Labonte will race in the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona thanks to a points switch with David Gilliland that awards Labonte a wild-card spot in the Feb. 7 exhibition race.

Labonte signed last week to drive the No. 96 for Hall of Fame Racing, which partnered with Yates Racing and will rely on that team for technical assistance.

Under a rule change announced by NASCAR last week, a wild-card entry from each of the four manufacturers will be permitted into the Shootout.

Labonte is claiming that spot for Ford in the points grab from Gilliland, who drove for Yates Racing last season. And new Yates driver Paul Menard will receive the points earned by Travis Kvapil last season.

All the swapping means Labonte and Menard are assured a starting spot in the first five races of the season, while Kvapil must qualify for each event on speed.

There was no word on what, if anything, the team plans to do with Gilliland.

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AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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