RPM has fielded Fords since 2010, and occupies shop space in the Roush Fenway Racing complex in Concord, NC. Roush Fenway provides chassis and engines to the operation, but earlier this season, Petty began an open flirtation with Dodge, hoping to replace Penske Racing as that manufacturer’s flagship team in 2013 and beyond.
RPM was eventually disappointed when Dodge announced plans to withdraw from NASCAR competition, and multiple sources say Ford Motor Company officials were unhappy with Petty’s attempt to return to the Dodge camp. Those feelings, coupled with the addition of Penske Racing to the Ford roster next season, will result in RPM receiving a decidedly smaller slice of FoMoCo’s motorsports pie in 2013.
Petty told reporters yesterday that there are still no concrete plans for 2013, but that he expects to remain with Ford, “unless somebody else comes up with something." Not exactly a glowing endorsement, or a statement likely to curry favor in the Ford camp.
Petty’s ace in the hole, however, is Ambrose. Ford executives consider the former Australian V8 Supercar champion to be a NASCAR star in the making, and will do virtually whatever it takes to keep him in the Ford camp. He has dominated NASCAR’s twice-annual road course events since coming to the Sprint Cup Series on a limited basis in 2008, recording two wins, seven Top-5 and nine Top-10 finishes in 10 career road course starts. His only finish worse than eighth was in his inaugural series start with Wood Brothers Racing in 2008, when transmission failure dropped him out of the Top-10 and relegated him to a 42nd place finish.
Ambrose’s performance on ovals has also improved dramatically. He remained in contention for a Chase berth until the final laps of last weekend’s race at Richmond International Raceway, and currently stands a strong 15th in Sprint Cup championship points. With the right team, Ambrose could easily contend for the Sprint Cup championship next season.
The question is, will Richard Petty Motorsports be the right team?