Rumors were made official Friday morning when Richard Petty, Foster Gillett and AJ Allmendinger announced the team had signed a multiyear contract to keep Allmendinger in the No. 43 Ford. With Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and possibly Paul Menard departing the organization at the end of the 2010 season, RPM was able to lock one of its current drivers for years to come.
“I am really excited about my future here with Richard Petty Motorsports,” Allmendinger said. “It’s been such an honor to be behind the wheel of The King’s No. 43 car. I am happy to be able to continue to be his driver and feel for the first time in my NASCAR career I have the chance to build on something. Everyone at RPM and Ford Racing has worked hard to be successful this year and I know we’re right on the verge of big things.”
In talking with the media Friday at Watkins Glen, Allmendinger explained he had a number of options in determining his future in NASCAR, but the commitment by Ford and the overall fun factor at the race shop were the keys to keeping the 28-year-old with the organization.
The relationship between Allmendinger and the Petty organization seemed to be in question following the July race in Daytona when Allmendinger and Richard Petty got into a heated conversation in the garage area. Behind closed doors, however, the organization was able to give Allmendinger what he was looking for after some intense negotiations.
"Tara wasn’t easy on these guys,” Allmendinger said of his business manager, Tara Ragan. “She asked the questions to make me feel comfortable about staying here. They gave the answers we needed to hear that this was a stable place and something we can build on. It’s all about trying to win races. Everyone knows that’s all I care about I just want to try to win."
What Allmendinger was looking for was a long term commitment from the team that put him at the forefront of the organization. Now in his fourth full year on the Sprint Cup schedule, Allmendinger is ready to take the reins of the team and put it on his shoulders.
"Hopefully when people think of Richard Petty Motorsports, they think of me leading the team,” Allmendinger said.
In 21 races together this year, Allmendinger has scored his first career pole and has three top-10 finishes.
With one driver locked in for the next few years, RPM still has a lot of unanswered questions about their future. Some reports have linked Marcos Ambrose to the organization, but no announcement has been made as of yet. In addition, it appears Budweiser – the current sponsor for Kasey Kahne – will also be leaving at the end of the year. Foster Gillett said the team has some things done, while others are still in the works.
"We have a lot more good news coming as an organization," Gillett said. "We have a base of which we believe we can propel cars to victory on a regular basis. I think drivers and partners want to be a part of that and we look forward to rolling that out in the future. We are excited to start with AJ and the No. 43 car because it is important to all of us. We are going to go down a path here for a few weeks and hopefully have a lot more news as we go. It is exciting times here at Richard Petty Motorsports.”
In talking with the media on Friday, Richard Petty said the organization has some more announcements “in our pockets,” jokingly saying they like press conferences and will spread them out over the next few weeks.
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