Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Dodge Back On Top Of RPM Derby

It's a full-time job keeping up with the behind-the-scenes maneuvering at Richard Petty Motorsports these days.

As we first reported yesterday, sources inside the walls at RPM say plans have been made to field Toyota Camrys for Kasey Kahne beginning in mid-August, as soon as team officials finalize a financial settlement package with Dodge. Those negotiations have reportedly taken a sudden turn in recent days, though, with the possibility now existing for Kahne and his RPM teammates to remain in the Dodge camp, after all.

Nobody seems to know exactly what turned the tide back in Dodge’s favor. Speculation ranges from a juicy incentive package offered by Dodge, to a bit of hardball by the automaker holding RPM to its existing contracts. The “juicy incentive” option is highly unlikely considering Chrysler’s recent bankruptcy filing, and Dodge previously allowed Chip Ganassi Racing to move to the Chevrolet camp after its merger with Dale Earnhardt. Inc., despite an existing contract.

The most likely explanation for RPM’s sudden about-face is Richard Petty’s personal loyalty to Dodge. Sources say that Reed Sorenson’s #43 would have remained a Dodge even after Kahne’s manufacturer switch, forcing RPM to construct two different makes of cars under the same roof. While such an undertaking is less daunting today than in the past -- due to common body templates and chassis -- the logistics are still considerable.

King Richard may not be the sole decision-maker for his team anymore, but his influence within the walls of RPM is still considerable. Sources say his insistence on remaining (at least partially) a Dodge Boy played a major role in this week’s reversal.

In the end, after a serious flirtation with Toyota – the second in as many years for team co-owner George Gillett – it now appears that Richard Petty Motorsports may remain in the Dodge camp, after all.

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