I posted a quick blog yesterday (see slightly revised version below) on the departure of Kasey Kahne from Petty Motorsports and suggested the financial pressures facing owner George Gillett (ex-Montreal Canadiens, ex-Liverpool Football Club owner) could soon have an impact on the race team.
It was reported overnight that Petty Motorsport employees have been told that they'll be paid through this weekend but that the team might not make it to the end of the season.
That means four cars and four drivers - including A.J. Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler - could be out of the series before the season ends at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
Full details of the latest developments, click here.
Meantime, the Korean Grand Prix will take place this weekend after all. Practice sessions held today showed the track holding up well. An early story can be found here. Canadian Formula One expert Gerald Donaldson will weigh in with a podcast report later today at wheels.ca
As mentioned, Kahne's departure came out of the blue.
You know, we watch NASCAR drivers crash week after week after week and, after awhile, it’s like a video game because nobody ever gets hurt — apparently.
But they do. Don’t ever kid yourself: going into a wall at 190 miles an hour (give or take a mile an hour or two) is no picnic. But just like professional hockey and football players shake off the punishment they take during a shift on the ice or a series of downs on the field (and if you don’t think that hurts, you’ve never played those games), race drivers put it down as the price they pay for doing business — even though their upper bodies are often black and blue.
Except that, sometimes, a guy says: enough.
Kasey Kahne crashed at Charlotte last Saturday night and went home afterward, rather than continuing in the Sprint Cup Chase race. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver said he didn’t feel well enough to drive, so the team had to recruit start-and-parker J.J. Yeley to finish up for him.
When Kahne said he didn’t feel well enough to drive, he probably meant he wasn’t feeling well enough mentally and emotionally. There has been a lot of turmoil surrounding the driver and the Petty team most of this season.
First, Kahne announced he’d signed a contract to drive for Rick Hendrick’s organization in 2012, replacing Mark Martin in the No. 5 car. Although he said he’d finish the season with Petty, he arranged to drive next year for Red Bull racing (to replace either Scott Speed of Brian Vickers and which one is still up in the air and will likely depend on Vickers’ health). So Kahne was going elsewhere in just a few weeks.
Meantime, the Petty team has had some financial pressures. The primary owner is George Gillett, former owner of the Montreal Canadiens and recent owner of Liverpool in the English Soccer League. It’s thought that Petty Motorsports has had financial pressures because Gillett has been facing some himself.
Rumours have been around for months that Petty Motorsports was cutting corners because of these financial pressures. Like using cheap stuff. Such as lower-scale brake fluid, which is one of the first things that popped into Kahne’s mind when he lost his brakes and crashed at Charlotte last Saturday night.
Kahne, at the first of the week, suggested things were not right at Petty Motorsports. The team said a few things back.
Wednesday night, Kasey Kahne was released by Petty Motorsports. Or that’s what the press release said.
There was a trade, actually. Kahne went to Red Bull early and Aric Almirola, who’s been filling in recently at Red Bull for Vickers, will drive for Petty at this weekend’s Cup race in Martinsville.
It’s probably for the best. Kahne was obviously gun-shy about continuing at Petty and the last thing any team wants is a disgruntled employee.
But in the end, what’s more important is the future of Petty Motorsports. Already reportedly going from four cars to two in 2011, will Gillett’s financial pressures mean an end to that team?