By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Back in April I sat in the Texas Motor Speedway Media Center and listened to what seemed like an odd announcement.
Richard Petty Motorsports team CEO Foster Gillett had called a press conference to let all of us in the media know that just because their star driver, Kasey Kahne, was leaving at the end of 2010 didn’t mean that the team would be closing up shop.
Of course right around that announcement the rumors of Richard Petty Motorsports’ demise really took off when it was learned that the team had defaulted on a $90 million loan.
So the press conference did nothing more for me, than instill in my mind that the team shutting down shop was such a viable option, and a realistic rumor that they had to call a press conference to stomp out the flames if only momentarily.
Now fast forward six months, and you will find that this week has a similar feel to it.
Wednesday it was announced that the team parted ways with it’s star driver five races early after he walked out on them following a crash in Saturday’s Bank Of America 500.
One day later it is being reported by several reputable writers such as Jeff Gluck of SBNation, Bob Pockrass of SceneDaily and Lee Spencer of Foxsports, that the team could be without cars following this weekend’s event at Martinsville Speedway.
According to their reports two sources have told them that Richard Petty Motorsports is behind on payments to Roush-Fenway Racing for their equipment that they loan from the mega-team. All of the chassis and engines on their premises have been confiscated by RFR except those that will be used this week in Martinsville.
Employees of the race team have been told they are guaranteed a paycheck this week, but after that there is no such guarantee.
This is big news, because if you remember the team just announced that A.J. Allmendinger has re-signed with the team for the 2011 season, and of course Marcos Ambrose announced a move to RPM from JTG Daugherty Racing at season’s end.
All this being said the team one would have to imagine would be close to being on the ropes. If for some reason the team has to close shop these two drivers may be caught in the middle of a sticky situation, and may find themselves without a ride next year.
In addition the team is currently fielding four cars. If the team can’t continue on past Martinsville then Paul Menard, Elliott Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger and Aric Almirola who is piloting the No. 9 car this weekend may be without a Sprint Cup Series ride for the final four races of 2010.
Will there be a similar press conference called this weekend by Foster Gillett in Martinsville that will sidestep the latest breaking story involving Richard Petty Motorsports, or will this indeed be the final straw for a race team?