RPM striving to keep 4 Cup cars running
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Richard Petty Motorsports officials are working diligently on finances to keep their four Sprint Cup cars on the track for the remainder of the season, a team representative said Friday.
RPM consultant Dale Inman said the organization received word last week that financial difficulties were ahead and related to a legal dispute over George Gillett's sale of the Liverpool soccer team that has impacted the team owner's racing organization.
Then came the release of star driver Kasey Kahne on Wednesday, a move that fueled speculation the organization co-owned by seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty was on the verge of closing its doors.
While there are no guarantees the team will race beyond this weekend, Inman said RPM has received cars and engines from Roush Fenway Racing and Roush Yates Engines for next week's race at Talladega and are working toward being there.
"We're going to run in the race Sunday and we're working real hard to finish out the year with everything we've got going," Inman said. "There's a lot of good people working on it. Everybody seems to be cooperating because it's affecting a lot of people on a lot of sides.
"We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope everything works out good."
Inman would not guarantee that the organization will finish out the season.
"I'd be scared to speculate on that," he said. "There's some gray areas we've got to clear up by some high-ranking people, but they all seem to be cooperating. We'll see what happens."
Inman didn't deny that RPM owes Roush Fenway and Roush Yates money for leasing cars and engines. But he said reports stating that Talladega cars were repossessed, and that crew members from Kahne's No. 9 car who will move to Red Bull Racing with Kahne full-time in 2011 had been let go, are not true.
Roush Fenway president Geoff Smith told ESPN.com on Thursday that the organization was working with RPM to finish the season and maintain at least a two-car team next year with AJ Allmendinger in the No. 43 and Marcos Ambrose in the No. 9.
Ambrose, who is leaving JTG Daugherty Racing after this season to replace Kahne, said RPM asked him to make the move for the final four or five races but that his current owners asked him to stay.
Asked if he was concerned about speculation of financial troubles at RPM, Ambrose said: "When I signed up with them I knew the risks involved. I knew the situation ... I made the choices I made for a reason and I still believe those reasons are correct.'"
Ambrose said he is not looking at a backup plan, but RPM officials assured him that his position was stable.
Roush Fenway owner Jack Roush said RPM is current with its debt with his organization. He also said that no RPM cars or engines have been repossessed.
"They are not in debt with us,'' he said. "I know they're working on their Talladega cars, and I'm sure they're paid up through Talladega. I assume there is another payment due between now and the end of the year, but I don't know how much.
"I have expectations that they'll be able to finish the deal.''
Inman said all the speculation has had a negative impact inside the Concord, N.C., shop.
"People are worried about what's going on," said Inman, who has a record eight championships [seven for Petty] as a crew chief. "Even when people give positives they're still going to worry."
Inman said "as of right now" the No. 9 crew will stay intact for the rest of the year.
"I see no reason why there would be a change there," he said. "They're in the truck right now working on getting the cars the best they can."
Inman is the first RPM official to speak publicly about the team's future. Gillett and general manager Robbie Loomis have not returned calls to ESPN.com since Kahne's release.
Inman said nothing should be read into the lack of comment, noting Loomis and other officials remained in Concord on Friday to work out details to keep the organization running.
Petty plans to be at the track on Sunday, Inman said, although that could change because his wife is in the hospital at Duke University with a broken hip suffered in a fall.
"Nobody is dodging anybody," Inman said.
Inman said no decision has been made on who will drive the No. 9 after Martinsville, where Aric Almirola will be in the car.
Meanwhile, team members from the No. 83 that Kahne will drive for the final five races and the No. 9 he left are working together to make the transition easier. RPM, for example, provided Red Bull Racing Kahne's carbon fiber seat.
Kahne shot down rumors that RPM owed him money, saying the organization met all of its financial responsibilities to date. He added that he's heard all the other speculation about the organization's future, calling it just that -- speculation.
"Just a lot of talk," Kahne said. "For me, I certainly hope RPM keeps rolling."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.