Merger keeps Petty in team name

Updated: January 19, 2009, 6:45 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- At the top of Richard Petty's list of deal-breakers when merger talks began between Petty Enterprises and Gillett Evernham Motorsports was to keep his name in the title of the company.

Meet Richard Petty Motorsports. Or "RPM," as some might call it.

The four-car Sprint Cup organization does not have any reference to majority owner George Gillett and keeps basically the same blue-and-red logo that symbolized Petty Enterprises for the past 60 years.

We come out to let the world know we're still in the racing business and we're going to be bigger and better than we've ever been.

-- Richard Petty

"We come out to let the world know we're still in the racing business and we're going to be bigger and better than we've ever been," Petty said Monday during an unveiling of the new logo on the first day of NASCAR's Media Tour.

Petty's list of demands also included keeping alive the famous No. 43 that he drove to seven Cup titles, as well as the No. 44 that was the second car at Petty Enterprises before Kyle Petty switched to the No. 45 in 2000 in memory of his son, Adam.

The No. 44 will replace the No. 10 as the fourth car that belonged to GEM. AJ Allmendinger, who is close to finalizing a multiyear deal, will drive in the first five races and is slated to run at least seven in the 44.

The Pettys reclaimed the No. 44 from Michael Waltrip Racing, which had it the past three seasons.

Team officials said the hope is to get Allmendinger sponsorship to run a full season -- if not this year, then next.

Petty also demanded that Budweiser, which sponsors Kasey Kahne's No. 9 car and had logos on the other GEM cars prior to the merger, not be on the 43 or 44 to uphold a family tradition of not being associated with alcohol-related sponsors.

"My mother would come back and haunt us home," Petty said of what would happen if Budweiser showed up on either car.

NASCAR's so-dubbed "King" also asked that Dale Inman, his crew chief for all seven titles, longtime public relations representative Brian Moffitt and vice president of race operations Robbie Loomis be guaranteed jobs with RPM.

He said having them as part of the deal gives him more power than he had after last year's merger with Boston Ventures, which has only a small percentage of RPM.

"Any kind of business ventures joining up or buying or selling, then you've got certain criteria that you've got to work around," Petty said. "[I told them] I ain't coming if my people ain't coming.

"If it's just me coming then I'm just an individual and I'm really on the outskirts. When I come and bring Robbie and Brian and Dale, then I've brought the nucleus of Richard Petty. Then I'm involved and they're involved, and what I can't find out they can find out."

But most important was keeping alive the Petty brand. Gillett, who did not change the name or signage of the Montreal Canadiens when he purchased the NHL team several years ago, had no problem with that.

"It was a great honor," said Gillett's son, Foster, who represented the family at the news conference. "We don't come to racing to see our name. We come to win. ... We would have erred greatly had we considered anything else.

"Gillett doesn't stand for much in the sport. We could try, and hopefully 50 years from now the Gillett name might mean something. At this point, we're going to do the best we can to help enhance Richard Petty Motorsports and do all that we can to help us win."

Not among Petty's demands was a place for his son in the company. He said 48-year-old Kyle "split from me" on the racing side the past couple of years when he stepped aside for several races to work as a television analyst for TNT.

But the elder Petty said there is no personal rift between him and his son.

"Maybe as we go along in this deal, maybe we'll be able to get him into a car to race for three or four races," he said. "As far as personal stuff, nothing has changed in the last 48 years."

Tom Reddin, the CEO of Petty Motorsports, said Petty will be an active member of the organization working with the drivers and being at the track most weekends. He said Ray Evernham, who sold majority interest in the organization to Gillett in 2007, would remain a consultant.

"We had a very good brand with Gillett Evernham Motorsports," Reddin said. "It was a respected brand in the industry. But the Petty brand, what is bigger than that?"

Petty believes the merger helps him and the Gilletts close the gap on top organizations, such as Hendrick Motorsports.

"We're the closest we've been since they started doing their thing," he said. "When they first came in we were at the top of the heap. Then we got to running even and then the first thing you know we fall off the hill and they take over.

"By us joining with George and stuff here, this puts us back in. [NASCAR has] four or five real top teams. We're the sixth one now. We're not the 15th or 20th team, which I was before joining up with George."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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