Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Pettys To Close Doors Today, Merger With GEM Complete

The rumors that began to circulate late yesterday appear to be true. Multiple sources at both Petty Enterprises and Gillett-Evernham Motorsports have confirmed to Sirius Speedway that there will be no 61st season of NASCAR competition for Petty Enterprises. After 10 championships and more than 200 victories, the team will close its doors at the end of business today and merge with Gillett Evernham Motorsports under the new name Richard Petty Motorsports.

After what were reported to be some starts and stops in recent weeks, the merger was finally completed on Christmas Eve, with a formal announcement of the merger expected early next week. It is expected that the familiar #43 Dodge will be driven next season by Reed Sorenson, with Kasey Kahne continuing in the #9 Dodge, and AJ Allmendinger replacing Elliott Sadler in the #19.

Petty Enterprises will reportedly lay off almost all of their remaining employees today. CEO David Zucker, who has been with the team since the Boston Ventures equity firm purchased a majority interest in June, will reportedly be assigned to the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Executive Vice President of Racing Operations Robbie Loomis will assume a management position with RPM, while former #43 carchief Ray Fox Jr. is expected to jump to JTG-Daugherty Racing and work with driver Marcos Ambrose.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Allmendinger In, Sadler Out After Gillett-Evernham Motorsports Shakeup

There has been a wholesale changing of the guard at Gillett-Evernham Motorsports, with team officials electing to replace Elliott Sadler with AJ Allmendinger at the wheel of their No. 19 Dodge.

Allmendinger's business manager, Tara Ragan, told Saturday night that her client is “in the final stages of negotiations with Gillett Evernham," and that the deal should be finalized within the next week. "I don't foresee any problems coming up,” said Ragan, “and I don't think they do, either.”

Allmendinger drove GEM’s #10 Dodge in the final five races of last season, recording an average finish of 16.4. He also endeared himself to team personnel with his off-track attitude, and reportedly forged a solid relationship with teammate Kasey Kahne. Gillett-Evernham CEO Tom Reddin announced the impending driver change to team employees just before the holidays, and sources within the team say the reaction was mixed.

“AJ did a great job for us last season, and we’re excited to have him drive for us,” said one GEM crewman, on the condition of anonymity. “But what they did to Elliott was just plain wrong.”

Sadler’s ouster also appears to have angered GEM founder Ray Evernham, who removed all his personal property and mementos from the team’s shop late last week. Since selling a majority share of the team to Gillett, Evernham has had little hands-on involvement with the team, and has reportedly been working to divest his remaining ownership stake. He declined to comment on the move yesterday, saying, “I got a call from a friend last night asking what I knew about it, but I really don’t know anything. I haven’t even read about it on the internet, so there’s really no way for me to comment until I know what I’m talking about.”

Sadler signed a two-year contract extension with GEM in May, and sources say team owner George Gillett will now be forced to buy out those additional two years. Sadler has already begun making calls to try and find a ride for next season.

Sources tell Sirius Speedway that Gillett is heavily leveraged from the original Evernham buyout, as well as from a number of automobile dealerships he purchased earlier this year. He reportedly faces a major payment on his Liverpool Football Club, which plays in the English Premier League, as well. A deal that would have merged GEM with Bill Davis Racing fell by the wayside a few weeks ago, reportedly after Gillett was unable to obtain financing to complete the transaction.

Gillett has recently been involved in negotiations to merge GEM with Petty Enterprises. Sirius Speedway reported two weeks ago that the merger had stalled, and while that report was immediately denied by a GEM spokesman, Sadler’s release appears to indicate that the deal is indeed in jeopardy.

A combined GEM/Petty operation was expected to field four cars in 2009; enough to retain Kasey Kahne, Reed Sorenson, Sadler and Allmendinger.

GEM announced earlier this month that it will scale back its 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series operation, after losing sponsor Unilever to JR Motorsports. The team recently laid off approximately 65 employees.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Watch Martin "Marty On The Mountain" Engstrom do his final report from the top of Mount Washington for WMTW-TV in Poland Spring, Maine. CLICK HERE to see it, and wait for the end to see the cheesy grin!

Carmichael Hoping For Truck Series Shot

Former motocross champion Ricky Carmichael has signed a contract with Kevin Harvick, Inc., and says a sponsorship deal is close that would allow him to run a partial schedule on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2009.

Carmichael offered a hint at the identity of the potential sponsor yesterday, saying, “they have been very good to me in the past, and I hope we can find a way for it to continue.” Sources tell Sirius Speedway that Monster Energy Drink is negotiating to back Carmichael’s Truck Series effort. Carmichael tested an ARCA car at Daytona International Speedway last week, setting the stage for a possible Truck Series debut at the World Center Of Racing during Speedweeks 2009

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gaughan Eyeing RWR Nationwide Ride

Brendan Gaughan is in serious negotiation to drive a NASCAR Nationwide Series Chevrolet for Rusty Wallace Inc. next season.

The team’s #64 Chevy was driven last season by David Stremme, who will replace Ryan Newman in Penske Racing’s #12 Sprint Cup Series Dodge for 2009. The deal has not yet been finalized, however, because Gaughan is waiting for a final decision to be made on Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing’s #41 Sprint Cup Dodge.

Sirius Speedway reported earlier this week that veteran Bobby Labonte will drive the #41 next season, and he remains the leading candidate for the ride. However, a sponsor Labonte hopes to bring to the team has not yet come through, putting the partnership – at least temporarily -- on hold.

A source close to the situation called Gaughan’s deal with RWR “99 percent done,” with an announcement expected after the holidays. That would leave the seat of the Circle Bar Racing #10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford vacant for next season. Asked about a possible return to the #10 Truck, Gaughan told Sirius Speedway Wednesday, “I won’t drive a truck for anyone but them. We have a great relationship, and I really enjoy driving for Tom Mitchell and Rick Crawford. But there are a couple of other opportunities out there, and we want to give everything a good look before making a decision.”

Gaughan was vacationing in Colorado and not available for comment today.

NASCAR Settles Grant Lawsuit

NASCAR has settled the $225 million racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Nationwide Series official Mauricia Grant, following a mediation session in New York City on December 3. Terms of the settlement were confidential, and neither side has admitted liability or wrongdoing. All parties have agreed not to discuss the case in the future.

Grant, who is black, worked as a NASCAR Nationwide Series technical inspector from January of 2005 until her firing in October of 2007. NASCAR later said she was terminated after repeated incidents of lateness, and a pair of incidents involving a Michigan track security guard and a fellow official.

She filed suit in June of this year, alleging 23 incidents of sexual harassment and 34 incidents of racial and gender discrimination. NASCAR investigated her claims and ultimately fired two officials accused in the suit of exposing themselves to Grant, though the sanctioning body has never disclosed specific reasons for their dismissal. A third official was fired in April for what NASCAR said were unrelated reasons.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said of the agreement, "We're glad to have the case settled on mutually acceptable terms. NASCAR remains dedicated to maintaining a professional work environment for all employees at all times.” Grant's attorney did not immediately comment on the settlement.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Petty-GEM Deal Stalled

Sirius Speedway has learned that the much-discussed merger between Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises has run aground. Anonymous sources say that GEM laid off approximately 50 employees today, and that its NASCAR Nationwide Series team will be cut back dramatically. In addition, multiple sources say that GEM’s #10 Sprint Cup team and driver Reed Sorenson could run only a partial schedule next season.

While not commenting on reported problems with the Petty deal, Gillett Evernham Motorsports CEO Tom Reddin confirmed today that major changes are underway. "We are a Sprint Cup team first and foremost, and winning in that series needs to be our primary focus,” he said. “The Nationwide Series is a fantastic series and we certainly look forward to racing a partial schedule in 2009, but we will not run the full season next year. We will remained focused on putting all of our effort behind the Cup program in 2009. GEM is very fortunate to have nearly all of our Cup sponsors returning in 2009 in addition to the new arrival of others."

Reddin said that GEM will also restructure its engine department for 2009, to align with a reduced number of engine leasing customers next season.

Robby To Toyota In 2009; Lowes Tearing Down Seats

Robby Gordon announced today that he will drive a Toyota in 2009, beginning with the season-opening Daytona 500. Toyota will be Gordon’s third different manufacturer in the last three seasons, after he jumped from Ford to Dodge just prior to the 2008 campaign. He has previously campaigned Toyotas in Off-Road, IMSA, SCCA and Indy Car competition.

Sirius Speedway has also learned that Lowe's Motor Speedway will follow the lead of Texas Motor Speedway, removing a large number of seats in the track’s South Grandstand to make way for a luxury RV lot. Destruction of the South Grandstand is reportedly set to begin Monday, with construction of the new lot to follow. Calls to the speedway for confirmation were not immediately returned, but ticket agents began contacting affected season ticket holders earlier today.

More Godfather's Christmas Elves!

Longtime listener "Pepsi Steve" Buhala has some gorgeous grandchildren. Not them, the LITTLE ones -- Cayden and Erica!

Emily is the granddaughter of listener Dave Perrin of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was born October 30th, and is obviously looking forward to her first Christmas. Thanks Dave!

Paul in Pennsylvania has two more adorable additions to the list!

Labonte To Drive #41 Target Chevrolet

Bobby Labonte will drive the #41 Target Chevrolet for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in 2009, joining Martin Truex, Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola as part of a newly merged, four-car team.

Labonte has not commented since announcing his split from Petty Enterprises last week, and the new Earnhardt-Ganassi operation remains in a virtual media lockdown. However, multiple sources close to the situation tell Sirius Speedway that a deal to put Labonte in the #41 is signed, sealed and delivered, after receiving the approval of sponsor Target. Work has already begun on the necessary promotional infrastructure -- photo shoots, marketing campaigns, ancillary programs, etc. -- for the coming season.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holly Is The Godfather's Second Christmas Elf Of 2008!

She will celebrate her first birthday on December 23rd!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chrissy Is The Godfather's First Christmas Elf Of 2008!! Thank You Chrissy!

Labonte Confirms Split, Petty Announcement Expected Today

Bobby Labonte announced today that effective immediately, he has been released from all contractual obligations with Petty Enterprises, and will turn his attention toward other opportunities for 2009. Terms of the split were agreed upon by both parties.

Labonte said, “I will always be very appreciative of what Richard Petty, the Petty family, every employee of Petty Enterprises and members of Boston Ventures did to invest in bettering my career the past three seasons.” He added that he does not have a contract in place with any other team for 2009, but is “ready to explore all opportunities and form the next partnership in my career.”

Multiple sources tell Sirius Speedway that Labonte is close to a deal to put him in the driver’s seat of a #41 Target Chevrolet at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing next season.

Petty Enterprises is expected to make an announcing regarding its future later today; most likely concerning a merger or other partnership with Gillett Evernham Racing that could put AJ Allmendinger behind the wheel of the iconic #43 Dodge next season.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

CONFIRMED: Benson To Red Horse In 2009

Red Horse Racing co-owner Tom DeLoach confirmed yesterday what Sirius Speedway told you back on November 10; that defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Benson will drive a #1 Red Horse Racing Toyota as a teammate to David Starr next season.

DeLoach, who owns the team along with NASCAR on FOX commentator Jeff Hammond, said sponsors are still being sought, and that Benson’s 2008 crewchief, Trip Bruce, will be atop the pit box once again next season.

Sad Times At Petty Enterprises

Petty Enterprises released 39 employees yesterday, bringing the total number of layoffs since season’s end to approximately 65. reports that about 54 employees remain, all of whom are anxiously awaiting word from the company on the status of a reported merger with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports that could save their jobs, at least for now.

What a sad, sad turn of events for a team that was once universally acknowledged to be NASCAR's finest.

Not so long ago, Petty Enterprises was the New York Yankees, the Montreal Canadiens and the Green Bay Packers, all rolled into one. Richard Petty stormed to seven NASCAR Cup Series championships, adding to the three collected by his legendary father, Lee. Third-generation driver Kyle Petty was winning – if not contending for titles – at the uppermost level of the sport, and Kyle’s son Adam showed every sign of extending the family dynasty for at least another generation.

Then it all began to go terribly wrong.

Teams like Hendrick Motorsports, Roush-Fenway and Joe Gibbs Racing evolved almost constantly over the years, fielding multi-car teams and implementing engineering-based approaches in response to the changing times. Petty Enterprises, however, remained grounded in their old-school ways, fielding single cars built by men with wrenches in their hands, rather than slide rules.

NASCAR grew and thrived in Charlotte, NC, while the Pettys remained in their cozy little shop, next door to the Level Cross, NC house where “King Richard” was born.

Then Adam Petty’s promising career ended in a horrific crash in Loudon, NH, leaving the team without a legacy for the first time in its history.

It’s been decades since Petty Enterprises has truly been competitive. Their last win came with John Andretti at Martinsville in 1999, and even then, the days of Petty dominance were long past. Their last championship came 30 years ago, when The King clinched his seventh and final title, and they have not been part of any serious championship discussion in more than a quarter century.

The iceberg was struck long ago, and the ship has been taking on water for years. Now, Petty Enterprises is listing badly to starboard, and it is unclear whether the GEM merger will prove to be anything more than ceremonial bilge-pumping. There has been no comment from anyone on either side of the Petty/GEM aisle since reports of the merger broke last week, other than Kyle Petty confirming that he no longer plays any role with the team.

“Maybe it’s the time to close the doors and go do something else,” said Petty. “I know my father is struggling with it really hard. He is really, really struggling with where the company’s at, what the company is doing and how this thing has played out.”

"Just three weeks ago, Richard Petty gave an unintended glimpse at the level of desperation that almost certainly surrounds his race team these days, saying, "Mergers…are an emergency situation. If you're drowning, then you're going to get a partner to drown with you. That's basically what it looks like it's going to be. But if they go together, maybe they don't drown."

Hopefully, the rescue ship has arrived in time to scoop a few survivors from the water.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Truex, Labonte, Allmendinger In Latest NASCAR Silly Season Scenario

Sirius Speedway has learned that DEI-Ganassi Racing is making a serious push to add another sponsor to its lineup, in an effort to avoid the possible loss of driver Martin Truex, Jr., and sponsor, Bass Pro Shops. Language in the contracts of both Truex and Bass Pro Shops reportedly requires DEI to field at least two fulltime teammates for Truex next season, and with only Aric Almirola’s unsponsored #8 car likely to return, sources say DEI had little choice but to merge with Ganassi, in an effort to retain their only funded driver.

The merged DEI-Ganassi stable now includes Truex’s Bass Pro Shops-sponsored #1, Juan Pablo Montoya’s #42 with partial sponsorship from Wrigley’s, the #41 car with Target sponsorship, and Almirola’s unsponsored #8. Sources say the team made a major push recently to upgrade Fastenal’s NASCAR Nationwide Series sponsorship to a Sprint Cup deal, but were left high and dry when Fastenal declined the offer in order to begin discussions with another major NASCAR team.

Where might Truex and Bass Pro Shops land, if they were to opt-out of their current deal with DEI-Ganassi? Speculation centers on Stewart-Haas Racing, with Truex teaming with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Stewart said weeks ago that his team is not looking to field a third car next season, and team spokesman Mike Arning echoed those thoughts today.

“We would obviously have to take a good, hard look at a situation like that, but I think we would be hard-pressed to make it happen,” said Arning. “We have a lot to prove to people next year; specifically that we can compete right out of the box as a two-car team. Adding a third car at this late date would be extremely difficult, and while it’s obviously not my call, my guess is that it might be too much to take on.”

However, fully funded drivers are few and far between these days. Particularly drivers with the talent of Martin Truex, Jr.

Adding another layer of intrigue to the story are unconfirmed reports that Bobby Labonte may be negotiating to jump to DEI-Ganassi Racing, driving the #41 Target car. The deal would be contingent on Labonte's ability to negotiate an exit from Petty Enterprises, where he is signed through the 2012 season. A spokesman for DEI-Ganassi Racing said today that while he has heard Labonte’s name as one of many rumored to be in the running for the #41 car, he has no knowledge of any ongoing negotiations.

A number of cards obviously remain to be dealt at this point. But at present, the most likely scenario appears to be for Labonte to negotiate his departure from Petty Enterprises, allowing him to move to DEI-Ganassi Racing with sponsorship from Target. That would keep Truex and his Bass Pro Shops sponsorship in-house, opening the door for AJ Allmendinger to drive the #43 Dodge next season for the newly merged Gillett-Evernham/Petty Enterprises tandem.