Thursday, September 10, 2009

Petty Blue and the Blue Oval to team up!

It has been a quiet Thursday, with little to no NASCAR news, except for the non-news of anything pertaining to Jeremy Mayfield.

Watching Twitter, I noticed Marty Smith of ESPN comment he was working on a big story. Less than an hour later, the news broke on Twitter, Facebook and SiriusXM radio 128. The press releases states:

STATESVILLE, N.C. – Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing announced today they have signed a letter of intent to merge operations in time for the 2010 season. The four-car team will race Fords under the Richard Petty Motorsports banner.

Richard Petty: “This is a pretty big deal for us. We’re thrilled to partner with Ford. We’ve talked with a lot of folks, but in the end it came down to the success the Gilletts and I think we can achieve with Ford Racing. Right now this deal is real new. There are lots of details still left to be ironed out so we don’t have a lot of answers for anyone right now. We’ll be working on all that in the coming days, weeks and months, but we do intend to have everything in place before the start of next season. I’ve won races with Ford and plan to again.”

Team Managing Partner Foster Gillett: “Richard and Kasey (Kahne) showed us Sunday night in Atlanta that they like winning quite a bit and Ford is going to provide the support that we need to go to victory lane more often. If you are going to compete with the other teams in this sport you need a lot of support. We bring a lot to this relationship as well. We’ve won twice this season and the power of Richard Petty is hard to beat, plus we have the support of some of the biggest names in corporate America.”

Yates Racing Co-owner Max Jones: “This is certainly a great opportunity for both Yates Racing as well as Ford Racing. I have had a long-term relationship with Ford and look forward to continuing that relationship at Richard Petty Motorsports. Over the coming weeks we will continue to work with Ford and Richard Petty to lay out the best plan for Paul Menard and all of the employees at Yates Racing. We will continue to field both the No. 98 and No. 96 Ford Fusions for the remainder of the season and look forward to continued success on the track with Paul, Bobby Labonte and Erik Darnell.”

Yates Racing Co-owner Doug Yates: “This plan is clearly in the best interest of the Ford Racing community. On a personal level, I am excited about the opportunity to focus my full energy on building Ford horsepower. We look forward to working with Richard Petty Motorsports to produce power second to none. There are many details to be worked out with Richard Petty Motorsports and as we finalize those details we will keep everyone informed.”

Director of Ford North America Motorsports Brian Wolfe: "I am very pleased that Richard Petty Motorsports has made the decision to switch to Ford for the 2010 season. They had choices to consider other than Ford and it's gratifying to us that they have enough faith in the Ford Motor Company and what we're doing to make the switch. We believe we can provide them with superior analytical tools and powertrain, and we will work with them closely on the technical front to help them become even more competitive than they are. What's also really cool to me is the chance to have someone with the class and the legacy of Richard Petty involved with Ford. Combine that with the chance to work with the Gillett family, who we have great respect for, and add some great drivers to the Ford camp, well, it's hard not to be excited about this opportunity."


• Paul Menard will be one of the drivers in the Petty team joining Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and AJ Allmendinger.

This is a huge shock, mainly because no one was expecting this. Some questions remain. What happens to the 26 from Roush-Fenway Racing. What happens to the relationship with RFR. And what happens to Reed Sorenson?

According to Reed on Sirius today, at 3:37 PM, he declared that he has known for a few weeks that he would be looking for another job. He won't be the only one to experience job loss, as a merger will certainly mean that others in the two organizations will be drawing unemployment.

This news is still shaking up the internet and the NASCAR world. More to come!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Blind Faith or Being a NASCAR Fan?

A few days ago, I blogged a scathing commentary about David Gilliland losing his seat for a few races this year. While this was the most prominent of my printed feelings, I also sent a private email to TRG CEO, Kevin Buckler. Many members of David Gilliland's fans wrote to various principles of TRG, all expressing our shock and displeasure over the actions of the team.

I am going to give major credit to Kevin Buckler, as he and his wife Debra have been responding, one by one, to all of our emails. As he pointed out, there are not many team owners who would do that.

I agree. Kevin's responses are very unusual among team owners. But, TRG and David's fans, aka Gilly's Gang, have had a special relationship this year. We embraced Kevin as part of our family. We had some very special communications with members of his organization coming to our forum, and talking about some of the inner scenes. Indeed, one of our members became an associate sponsor of the #71 car.

In his email, Kevin gave some background information of the decision, which I don't feel privileged to reveal. Much of what he said, though, was already mentioned on his interview on Friday's Sirius NASCAR show, Trading Paint. He expressed that he has a family, employees,and a very large group of investors that he needs to keep paramount in his decisions. He considers David to be a likable friend, and hopes to have him back in the car for about three more races.

We had a discussion about how the fans blindly lashed out at his decision. I took quite a bit of time to think about that, and responded with some thoughts about how we as fans DO react blindly. After all, we can only react to what we see and hear, as we are not privy to the background information.

Our sport is really an anathema for the idols and the fans. We seem to have much more access to our stars than many other sports fans. Our driver autograph signings are usually free. Some drivers, with extreme popularity, have such a vocal group of fans that they can often help sway the decisions of team owners. (Tony Eury, Jr at Hendrick, for example!)

Yet, really, what do we know about the drivers and the others who make this sport work? We rarely hear details about their personal lives, and what we do know is just brushed across the surface. Press Releases are cleaned and sanitized to prevent negative comments. Few drivers want to create negative vibes with fans, and therefor watch everything they say carefully. Sponsors will send their drivers through carefully crafted media-training sessions. Most sponsors also have a brand manager at the driver's side to keep anything negative from falling on the brand.

Because of that, we do react blindly to situations that involve our favorite drivers. It is the only way we CAN react, because we don't have access to the intricacies of how these decisions are made. Nor should we, yet we will still react.

We will follow our driver from team to team. We will defend that driver and the team with the best of our abilities. We trust that the media releases we hear are true. We will line up hours ahead of time to get a chance to meet our driver. We embrace team owners, since they have the excellent taste to hire our driver. And when we perceive something is not right, and it is a negative for our idol, we will 'blindly lash out.'

This is called being a fan.

Bobby Labonte's fans have experienced some pretty big ups and downs. They were upset with Yates, and thrilled with TRG. Gilly's fans are upset with TRG, and thrilled with Wood Brothers, Joe Gibbs, and Robby Gordon. Erik Darnell's fans are just plain thrilled! But each of those drivers does have a fan base, and the fans ultimately are the ones who make the loudest noise! And with the internet, Twitter, blogging and Facebook, fans have even more noise than ever before.

And if any of the above mentioned teams have problems? The fans will blame the team, the owner, the crew chief, the car, the tires, the weather....anything but our driver. I for one, hate to think of the fans 'blindly lashing out' if Labonte has to do a start and park!

I would like to thank Kevin Buckler for taking the time to respond to me and to the other fans of Gilliland. While we are not cured of our hurt, the wound has a makeshift bandage. Many of us are feeling better. For now!