The Frontstretch: Did You Notice?... Petty's Certain Death, Roush Suckerpunched, And Earnhardt's New Prodigy by Bryan Davis Keith and Tom Bowles -- Wednesday April 14, 2010

Go to site navigation Go to article

Did You Notice?... Petty's Certain Death, Roush Suckerpunched, And Earnhardt's New Prodigy

Bryan Davis Keith and Tom Bowles · Wednesday April 14, 2010


Connect with Tom!

Editor’s Note: Did You Notice? was co-written by Tom Bowles and Bryan Davis Keith this week.

Did You Notice? … How Richard Petty Motorsports is facing almost certain death?

I’ll never forget (Tom) when I got the call. It was December of 2008, and I’d just had my third source verify Petty Enterprises was being sold just months after being bought by Boston Ventures. That day, as news of my report spread like wildfire, the buzz in the room instantaneously changed from excitement to sadness. All anyone could talk about is Petty stories, memories, and worries about the future for the man known simply as The King.

All the while, it was the most exciting and depressing moment in my career. I couldn’t help but think, “We’ll never see Petty own a race car again.”

Since then, of course, the Petty family has continued to defy the odds. The team merged with George Gillett’s group and then yet another time with Yates the end of last season. But at this point, this group is all out of investors and desperate car owners to merge with in order to help them.

That likely spells doomsday for this team after Kahne’s departure, even if they’re able to successfully wipe out the $90 million in debt they’d accumulated. Looking ahead, Petty’s got just two “B” level drivers on the roster – Elliott Sadler and A.J. Allmendinger – to go along with a family-owned package (Paul Menard) that’ll bolt anytime for the right price. Yet there’s virtually no free agents available this season (a la Bobby Labonte in 2005) to bring onto the program with the attempt at revitalizing it, forcing them to build with what they got. And considering their sponsorships are a patchwork of “a few races here, a few races there” with different companies … it’s not going to take long for that deal to fall apart.

With Kasey Kahne’s departure at the end of 2010, the sun may finally be setting on Richard Petty’s career in NASCAR.

More importantly, you wonder whether Richard Petty wants to go through the rebuilding mess one last time. His wife, Lynda, is undergoing treatment for cancer, and the man himself is in the early 70s. Will there be a desire to start from scratch?

I just don’t think so.

Did You Notice? … The degree to which Roush got suckerpunched on this Kahne deal. Let’s review:

- Roush loses the primary driver of the “B” team they created to try and mimic the Hendrick mode of success. Now, that team (RPM) may not even be around beyond this season, costing the program crucial engineering, information, and other benefits on the racetrack.

- An offer to push Kahne towards the No. 6 car doesn’t happen, leaving UPS and David Ragan with a few ruffled feathers in his wake.

- In a touch of irony, the team Kahne was supposed to bring down while contracted with Ford back in 2003 is the very same one he ended up with: Hendrick Motorsports.

Considering the superpower Hendrick is slowly building itself up to be, now is a crucial moment for Roush to fight back and show they’re still a key player on the NASCAR scene. Yes, they have Kenseth, Biffle, and Edwards, but their development programs (Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Colin Braun) are equivalent to a Demolition Derby. And those three cars, try as they might, are no match for an eight-car fleet run out of the Hendrick and Stewart-Haas stables in 2011.

Right now, in the battle amongst the rich it’s Hendrick sitting pretty with all the cash. And until Roush does something in response … this deal will go down as the one where Hendrick pulled the wool over their eyes and distanced themselves from a team yet to win a race in 2010.

Did You Notice? … The awful irony in Kelly Bires getting fired the same day John Wes Townley remains with his organization? Bires, who had just five races to prove himself, ends up without a second chance just two months into the season. Keep in mind Bires had four top 20 finishes and wrecked just once, so it’s not like he was finishing behind Eric McClure each week.

In contrast, Townley had wrecked four times in five races (not including the Phoenix practice wreck) while never finding the speed that’s eluded him throughout his whole Nationwide Series career. But as long as Daddy keeps dangling that paycheck, he’ll be sitting in the seat for a long time to come.

What a shame that money, not talent, is making the difference across all of NASCAR’s top levels today.

Did You Notice?… That JR Motorsports’ new Nationwide driver is…Steve Arpin? OK, it’s not official yet, but all signs are pointing to this energetic Canadian as the next driver in line for a seat at JRM with Kelly Bires now out of the picture.

Arpin, who is coming off a convincing first career ARCA victory at Salem Speedway this past Sunday, has been inundated with what he described to Frontstretch as hundreds and hundreds of emails and phone calls from his fans. “Let me put it this way,” he told Frontstretch Tuesday night, “my life has completely changed in the last 48 hours. It’s been absolutely incredible.

“When I came into ARCA racing, I knew I could win races. But as we all know, knowing it in your head and doing it are two different things. We were able to back it up and go win a race.”

For all the excitement, Arpin was very thorough in his gratitude, taking time to thank the Nelson family, Jeff Taylor Motorsports, Trent and Davin of the Emnel family from Canada, his parents Chuck and Gail Arpin and family business Pinewood Sports, Paul and John Leach and Lo-N-Bro Enterprises, Jay Clark and Clyde Ditmars for their continued support of his racing career.

Arpin’s energy, gratitude, and talent behind the wheel paid off on the ARCA level, with his team preparing to announce this week that funding has now been secured to allow his No. 55 Venturini Motorsports team to run the full 2010 ARCA Racing Series schedule. That funding includes a two-race deal with Mike’s Hard Lemonade, who will be featured on the No. 55 car this weekend at Texas and the following ARCA event at Talladega.

What’s more, others have taken notice of this rising talent outside the ARCA ranks. Sources tell Frontstretch that Arpin is now the leading candidate to take the seat with the team that was formerly held by Kelly Bires.

Don’t know Steve Arpin? You better get acquainted, as the rising ARCA star appears to have a ride at JR Motorsports lined up for 2010.

When asked about the chances of seeing him in a JRM car in the near future, Arpin revealed, “I’ve been working hard with JR Motorsports, actually since before Rockingham last year. We’ve developed a great relationship, and we definitely keep in touch. We’re definitely doing as much as we can to get an opportunity to get me in the seat.

“Our original plan over the offseason was, working hand in hand with the folks at JRM, to run the No. 7 car in all the races that Danica wasn’t running. [But] we’re definitely still talking a bunch. There’s nothing set in stone yet, but we’re definitely working on it.

“I guess we’ll just have to see what comes of it,” he said with a chuckle.

Here’s what we’ll see: I’d bet the sponsorship dollars that Arpin was so excited to announce that we’ll see him in a JR Motorsports Nationwide car a lot sooner than later.

Connect with Tom!

Contact Tom Bowles

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


©2000 - 2008 Bryan Davis Keith and Tom Bowles and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

04/14/2010 06:43 AM

It was announced last night that Jamie McMurray will be running a handful of races for JRM in the 88 car.

04/14/2010 09:12 AM

It’s a good thing that Jr doesn’t need to show as much consistency as he wants of his drivers. If he did, he would have been retired 3 seasons ago. NOBODY will be able to obtain any consistency is his cars when they are fired every two months.

RPM is not a Petty Motorsports entry. It is as Kyle said last season. The King sold his name to at least keep it in the sport. There is a sad truth when it comes to the Petty family’s racing efforts. The team was an also-ran before The King retired. When he retired, they continued to try and force the formula that won in the 60s & 70s, but had been outdated for a decade. Then they hired a string of second-rate drivers and put them in third rate cars. That is NOT a formula for success. In the wake of Adam’s tragic death in 2000, nobody at the team seemed to have the heart to even try anymore. I don’t blame them, Adam seemed to be the future they needed. I am just surprised that the team has survived this long.

As for Rousch, it’s not such a sucker-punch. Jack might have the top Ford team, but his cars have NEVER all run at the front week after week. His attempts at the multi-car super team formula have (historically) been dominated by hiring a great driver (Martin) and a string of second-rate drivers. He has good drivers now, but not one GREAT driver. Hendrick, on the other hand, has great equipment, and great drivers with openly shared information (although the two race shops continue to baffle my mind). Why was an alliance with RPM supposed to help Rousch? Look at Hendrick’s approach with “Stewart-Hendrick” (I mean Haas lol). Top notch equipment, top notch drivers (admittedly Newman has struggled, but not as bad as Jr), and everything being done for the betterment of Hendrick. Rousch’s approach was take good equipment, partner with a junk team, and a plethora of mediocre to good drivers. Am I the only one to notice a difference in the models?

04/14/2010 09:17 AM

Does this mean Miss Prissy will be out if she does not win within the next 3 races? Kelly had 1 top 10 in 6 races, but no wins.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
04/14/2010 09:25 AM

Actually Noel, Roush Cars have run up front with consistency – from about 2002-2006, with all five cars making the cut for the 2005 Chase. The latter half of 2008 as well they were all up front every week.

04/14/2010 11:01 AM

Glad to see Arpin if he comes to JRM, but my main intention is to keep Landon Cassill in a ride. Tough luck at PIR, next chance to shine, TMS.

Jeff's Fan
04/14/2010 02:03 PM

I really want to see Landon still in the Nationwide series. Firing Bires just seems stupid to me.
Kudos to HMS for pulling the Rat in the Hat’s chain once more. Funny isn’t it, how much happier even a sourpuss like Mark Martin has been since he “retired” to get away from Jack? I’m wondering about the Queen of Hype myself – I thought the godaddy ride was going to be hers when MM finally retired.

04/14/2010 03:09 PM

Speaking of cash cows, now do you think D. “BackofthePatrick” will be cut for the same reason? Probably not, its the dough you know, not driving talent that’s for sure.

Brian France Sucks
04/14/2010 06:32 PM

Arpin is a wheelman. Maybe he’ll replace JR.‘s no talent hide in the Cup Car. Bires must have done something behind the scenes to get canned, because this doesn’t add up. Maybe he stole one of Jr.‘s pit lizards. In any event, Jr. will still be the 4th best driver at Hendrick (6th if you count Stewart and Newman). The reason he likes Danica is the same reason Hendrick likes Jr. Even though they’re mediocre drivers, they sell lots of merchandise.

04/14/2010 08:23 PM

If Mr. The King gets out of it then so do I. He s the only thing in racing that is not a robot.

AJ Fantin
04/15/2010 08:07 AM

Look for Kenseth to move to Stewart Haas racing in 2012.

04/15/2010 08:15 AM

I would not call AJ Allmendinger second rate. He is as good as they get in my book. And I don’t see RPM going belly up. I hope the FR9 turns things in a winning direction.

Richard in N.C.
04/15/2010 06:09 PM

It is a shame that no one in the media got off their duff and did any real reporting about what happened with Boston Ventures and its investment in Petty Enterprises. The manager of over $2 billion comes into the sport, apparently falls flat on its face, and disappears in about 6 months and the NASCAR media just acts like it never happened.

04/15/2010 09:13 PM

@ Vito: Yes 2005 was the odd year out. Jack Rousch’s team dates back to the late 1980’s. He has tried on numerous occasions to get 5 teams up and running. Granted, he had consistent front-runners and the end of Martin’s tenure. But with Martin’s departure, and no-one to fill the void, mediocrity once again reigns supreme. Your attempt to disprove my point, actually reinforces it.

04/17/2010 12:23 AM

I guess we should all know who STEVE ARPIN IS NOW!!!! GOOD GOING STEVE

04/18/2010 10:56 PM

Hendricks Motorsports will have 12 cars after they move Jr Motorsports up to the cupseries in a few years.These rides will develop drivers and pull in big sponsors.


Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Did You Notice? ... Drivers Still Make A Difference... But Silly Cautions Don't
Did You Notice? ... NASCAR's Free Agent Lynchpin, Uncomfortable Reality And Gambling
Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters
Did You Notice? ... Keep On Asking, And You Will Receive A Qualifying Sigh Of Relief

If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.

Want even more Tom Bowles? Check out Tom's archive at