2011 Team Preview: Richard Petty Motorsports

Richard Petty Motorsports

AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose will drive for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2011. (Photo: Getty Images)

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In 2011, "The King" Richard Petty will be back at the helm of the race team that bears his famous name.

After two years of Richard Petty Motorsports being under the ownership of George Gillett, Petty will be back in charge, serving as the Chairman of the team.

Although RPM enjoyed some success with Gillett, winning two races in 2009, Petty partnered with Medallion Financial Corp. and DGB Investments to buy out Gillett after the team struggled financially at the end of the 2010 season.

“We had a pretty rough time last year, but everybody stayed with us." (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)“We had a pretty rough time last year, but everybody stayed with us," said Petty. "The sponsors stayed with us through the winter and came back on board for the new season. I have to give our crew a lot of credit. For the last five or six races, they didn’t know if they were going to have a job the next week, but they stepped it up, the drivers stepped it up, and we ended up with a pretty good season."

Medallion Financial Corp. had many opportunities to buy into a sports team, but Andrew Murstein, President of Medallion, said Richard Petty Motorsports was the perfect fit.

"We've looked at many sports opportunities over the years, we looked at actually buying at one point the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Cubs, but we picked this, and it's really for one main reason," Murstein said. "What epitomizes the right opportunity for our company, they (RPM) stand for everything that Medallion does, which is excellence, tradition and integrity.

"I promise the media and the fans that we're going to do everything that we can to get this great man and this great company back where they belong in the winner's circle and we promise you the best is yet to come at RPM."

RPM will downsize from four cars to two this season with AJ Allmendinger returning behind the wheel of the iconic No. 43 Ford and Marcos Ambrose joining the team to drive the No. 9 Ford.

Allmendinger, who signed a contract extension with RPM last August, experienced the financial turmoil, but still was able to run strong on the track that included a fifth-place run in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"To me the way I look at it is, if we can fight through all that, week to week, not even having our cars at the shop, our haulers sitting at a race track waiting to see if they can go to the next one. And we can go to the race track and still be fast and still be competitive, we should only be better with the right resources," Allmendinger said.

Now with RPM's future in place, Allmendinger hopes to get the season started off right after suffering an average finish of 27.3 in the first three races of 2010.

"I'm excited about it, but at the same point, I'm still nervous," Allmendinger said. "I know our biggest problem last year is we didn't start the year off right. We put ourselves in a big hole. I felt like we fought back from it really well at the end of the year. But at the same point it's all about how we start the year, so my main focus sitting here is just worrying about Daytona and missing the big one."

AJ Allmendinger's 2011 Best Buy Ford (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)Mike Shiplett will return as the crew chief of the No. 43 along with Best Buy as the primary sponsor for a majority of the races. The team will have also have sponsorship from Valvoline, U.S. Air Force, WIX Filters, Reynolds and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Ambrose comes to RPM after two full seasons in the Sprint Cup Series with JTG-Daugherty Racing. After posting 13 top 10s with JTG, Ambrose has his goals set for 2011 when he teams with crew chief Todd Parrott at RPM.

"I myself had good runs last year,” Ambrose said. “We could get it done, but the consistency is what I'm missing and I'm looking for.

"There's no secret that you can pass Jimmie Johnson, but somehow he managed to win five championships in a row because he's so consistent, consistently fast. Being good for 10 percent of one race isn't going to make a championship. We know that and the quest for me is to find that consistency and that high speed consistency and I'm looking forward to working with new people to do it."

Ambrose and Parrott started working on their chemistry after the conclusion of the 2010 season and were quickly at the track for tests that included one at Road Atlanta in early December and then at Daytona International Speedway last month for Preseason Thunder.

Marcos Ambose's 2011 Stanley/DeWalt Ford. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)Stanley Tools, who sponsored the No. 19 at RPM last season, will sponsor Ambrose's No. 9 Ford along with DeWalt, who returns to the sport after a successful relationship with Matt Kenseth at Roush Fenway Racing from 1999-2009.

Richard Petty Motorsports will remain in its current shop next to Roush Fenway Racing in Concord, North Carolina and will continue to get engines from Roush-Yates.

Tune in tomorrow when MotorRacingNetwork.com previews Michael Waltrip Racing.

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