Richard Petty Motorsports Vice President Mark McArdle has reportedly been fired after what sources called a “heating shouting match” with team owner George Gillett at Richmond International Raceway Friday.
Team spokesmen will confirm only that that McArdle has been suspended through this weekend's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but sources tell Sirius Speedway that he has already been fired. Gillett said this weekend that McArdle’s termination was "the subject of discussion," while co-owner Richard Petty said McArdle has, in fact, been terminated.
McArdle also serves as RPM’s Managing Director of Competition -- overseeing the team’s engine and chassis departments -– and his dispute with Gillett reportedly centered on the future of RPM’s engine shop. Gillett reportedly met with employees less than 30 days ago, assuring them that their jobs were secure and that there were no plans to close the engine facility. Late last week, those same employees learned that RPM’s engine department will be shut down and most of their jobs eliminated, once the team begins utilizing powerplants from the Roush-Yates engine alliance in 2010.
Petty spoke candidly about the planned RPM/Yates merger this weekend, saying the deal should be finalized within the next 2-4 weeks. While the agreement has officially been termed a merger, Petty said it is actually a case of RPM absorbing Yates Racing. He revealed that the entire operation will move to the current Yates Racing shops in Concord, NC, with Robbie Loomis heading the day-to-day operations.
Petty said the decision to move to the Ford camp next season came down to Dodge’s inability to make concrete financial commitments beyond the end of the 2009 campaign. Ford Motor Company has already committed to a financial support package for two Yates Racing entries in 2010 and beyond, and Petty said he hopes that deal can expand to include the entire, four-car operation once the economy rebounds.
While no decision has been made on which RPM driver will steer the legendary #43 car next year, Petty said he hopes to convince team sponsors to put AJ Allmendinger in the seat.
In a related story, Roush Fenway Racing President Geoff Smith said this weekend that he is scrambling to find a new home for the No. 26 Ford now driven by Jamie McMurray. Prior to the RPM/Yates merger, negotiations were underway to move the team to Yates Racing next season. But with that team now at NASCAR’s four-car limit for 2010, other arrangements will have to be made.
The #26 car also lacks sponsorship for next season, and with the future of the team in doubt, McMurray has reportedly ramped-up his talks with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing to replace Martin Truex, Jr., in that team’s #1 Chevrolet next season. Bobby Labonte is also said to be a candidate for that ride.