For all intents and purposes Kasey Kahne is (or was) Richard Petty Motorsports. He’s, young, he’s attractive, and he’s attached, in one way or another, to just about every sponsorship deal the organization has. Kahne’s marketability and talent on the track made him an outstanding asset for an organization struggling to survive. Now that Kahne is soon to leave the organization, we’ll have a chance to see just how able RPM is to continue in a post-Kahne world.
Kahne’s exit from the team hardly came as a surprise to anyone. While I don’t think too many people thought Hendrick would be the place he’d go in 2011, it was widely believed Kahne wouldn’t return to RPM for another season. Though things appeared to be improving as of late, his discontent with the team became apparent last September when he very publicly questioned the team’s leadership.
Unfortunately for Richard Petty Motorsports, their relationship with Kasey Kahne couldn’t be repaired.
What’s left of RPM is AJ Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler, and Paul Menard. Each of these drivers have contracts that will end at the conclusion of 2010. While prospects may not be too great for Allmendinger and Sadler (as there aren’t many open, funded spots), with improved performance and a billion dollar fortune behind him, Paul Menard could likely go any number of places. The team also faces the prospect of losing major sponsor Budweiser. So the question is, where do they go from here?
Every move the team makes from this point until the end of the season will determine their viability in 2011 and beyond. On top of losing Kahne, Sports Business Journal reported last Monday that the team was in default on a $90 million loan. George Gillett later said the debt was actually closer to $70 million and was in the process of being restructured. Unfortunately for RPM, George Gillett has a bad track record with sports teams and debt. See Liverpool FC; See Montreal Canadiens.
Foster Gillett told the media this weekend though his family was working to improve their liquidity position.
In a sport where your team is only as valuable as the sponsorships and drivers you bring to the table, RPM has lost it’s biggest asset. Without Kahne it’s likely sponsorships will be harder to come by and maintaining their profile as a competitive four car team will be harder to do. It will be interesting to see how the team advances down the rough road ahead.