When the checkered flag falls on the season-ending Ford 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, it won’t just be Kasey Kahne who’s walking out of the Richard Petty Motorsports door.
On Friday at the Chicagoland Speedway, teammate Elliott Sadler dropped a bombshell when he revealed he would not be back with the team in 2011.
Sadler expects to be able to announce his future plans in about a month or so, but wherever he goes, sponsors Best Buy/Insignia have said they will be behind him.
As for RPM, he said, “I don’t fit into their future plans.
“We haven't talked about anything 2011 at all. Me as far as what they're doing and what we're doing. So we're definitely going on our different ways, but we need to end up this season as strong as we can. I think it will help me try to find something, land something for next year, and I think it will help them land a driver that I think fits into what they're trying to do in the future."
This comes just two days after Sadler was paired with new crew chief Todd Parrott, whom he’s worked and won with in the past. It’ll be a short reunion as there are just 18 races, including Chicagoland, left in the season. Currently, the team sits 28th in points and Sadler hasn’t won a Sprint Cup race since California in late 2004.
RPM, on the other hand, has had their share of headlines this season.
First, Kahne announced in April that he would be joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 to drive the No. 5 when Mark Martin steps aside, and would be out of RPM in 2011 to destination unknown.
In June, the company had to calm Kahne down when he became upset after teammate A.J. Allmendinger blocked him on the last lap, causing Kahne to wreck at Pocono.
Last Saturday night in Daytona, Allmendinger was the one who needed to be calmed down when he was involved in an accident while running in the top 15 much of the night.
Over the next few months, the least of RPM's concerns will be who’s mad at whom.
One driver departing wasn’t something to get worked up about, but now they have two. That means there are two open seats to fill and possibly sponsorships to secure as Kahne’s, Budweiser, is known to be looking around the garage area at other drivers.
When Kahne announced he was leaving, RPM never publicly stated whether they would be looking for a driver to replace him in the No. 9. Sadler’s No. 19 team now finds themselves in the same position.
Once Kahne and Sadler leave, Allmendinger and Paul Menard will be the only drivers still racing in the RPM stable. They currently sit 22nd and 23rd in points respectively, although they’ve had performances that are not reminiscent of their rankings.
And don’t forget the money woes that RPM has been dealing with since February. It’s said that they are in default on a $90 million loan.
Where does the company go from here?
There are drivers out there to talk to, such as Bobby Labonte, who would jump at the chance to stop starting and parking.
Jamie McMurray only has a one-year deal with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, and has yet to announce what his 2011 plans are. And there's a handful of Nationwide Series drivers that might be right for the picking.
And as a Ford team, RPM still faces the task of trying to catch up to the competition. The FR9 engine appears to be a dash of hope, but no Ford team has won in 2010, and Kahne is the only RPM driver to win for the company. Those came at Sonoma and Atlanta last season.
The potential is there, but things haven’t fallen into place for the other RPM drivers to get to victory lane. As 2010 winds down and the offseason approaches, whether it’s drivers, sponsors, and whatever else needs to be tweaked, prepare for cha-cha-changes at Richard Petty Motorsports.