Gillett says team VP is suspended
RICHMOND, Va. -- The deal between Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing already has put one top official's job in jeopardy and put Roush Fenway Racing in the position of looking for a new owner to take over the No. 26 car in 2010.
George Gillett Jr., the majority owner of RPM, said vice president and managing director of competition Mark McArdle was suspended after a heated confrontation with Gillett on Friday at Richmond International Raceway.
Gillett would not say how long the suspension of the man that runs his engine and chassis department will last. Team officials said McArdle will be out at least through Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Richmond and next weekend's race at New Hampshire.
Asked if McArdle would be fired, Gillett said, "That is the subject of discussion."
Earlier Saturday, Richard Petty, the minority owner or RPM, had said McArdle had been fired and that Friday was his last day. He would not speculate how many others in the engine and chassis department might lose jobs if RPM uses Roush-Yates engines and Roush Fenway chassis as planned.
Meanwhile, Roush Fenway president Geoff Smith said the RPM-Yates deal has him looking for somebody to take ownership of the No. 26 car currently driven by Jamie McMurray.
Smith was working on a deal to move the 26 to Yates Racing to get Roush Fenway to the NASCAR cap of four cars. With four cars in the RPM stable -- Paul Menard from Yates, Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and A.J. Allmendinger from RPM -- there no longer is room for expansion.
Smith hasn't completely given up hope on keeping McMurray in the 26 with another owner using Roush Fenway engines and chassis, but said the only way that could happen was for full sponsorship to be found.
Most of the speculation has McMurray going to the No. 1 at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, but that car isn't fully sponsored for next season.
Smith said Erik Darnell, who is driving seven races for the No. 96 at Yates/Hall of Fame Racing entry this year, also could be a candidate for the 26 if ownership and sponsorship is found.
"The Jack Roush pressure, on me in particular, is we don't want any person that came to work for us to lose their job because of a business decision or shrinkage," Smith said. "We want to keep the 26 alive however we can."
Smith added that Roush Fenway has not had serious discussions with RPM officials about using its engines and chassis even though Petty said that was the plan. But he admitted it would be financially beneficial for Roush Fenway to supply eight teams vs. five to six.
Petty said details of the deal with Yates are 80 percent complete and should be finalized over the next two weeks to a month.
He said no decision has been made on who will take over the famed No. 43 that he drove to seven championships, but added that he would like to see Allmendinger in the car if all sponsors agree.
Petty said RPM is moving from Dodge to Ford because Dodge could not offer financial support for 2010 and beyond. Yates already has a financial commitment for two Ford teams, and Petty hopes that will increase once the economy is restored.
Petty reiterated what he told ESPN.com on Friday that RPM is absorbing Yates Racing more than it is merging. Robbie Loomis will remain in charge of day-to-day operations of the organization and the plan is to move into the Yates facility in Concord, N.C.
Petty said the biggest concern now is making sure business decisions don't interfere with efforts to help Kahne win a title. Kahne entered Saturday night's race sixth in points.
"We can't lose sight of what we've got to finish this year," he said.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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