The King reclaims NASCAR team

NASCAR

On Tuesday it was announced that Richard Petty has bought his NASCAR team from majority owner George Gillett Jr to become chairman of Richard Petty Motorsports. NASCAR’s most successful driver has taken back control of his family’s team in a partnership with Medallion Financial and DB Investments. Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion, said his company had purchased Gillett’s reported US$90 million debt for less than US$50m. Gillett defaulted on his loan earlier this year and was also forced to sell Liverpool FC in October after he and partner Tom Hicks were unable to refinance US$445m in debt to the Royal Bank of Scotland.

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Petty’s new partnership ends two years of uncertainty about his team’s future after he sold a majority share to private equity firm Boston Capital in 2008. A few months later a merger was completed with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, but George Gillett has been dogged with financial troubles.

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Kasey Kahne (above) has led RPM for the past two years but after a series of disagreements he left the team near the end of this season. Kahne won a few races during his time at RPM before seeing out 2010 with Red Bull’s Toyota NASCAR team. He will drive for Red Bull next year before moving to Hendrick Motorsport in 2012 where he’ll replace the retiring Mark Martin.

Petty takes a one-third stake in the latest version of Richard Petty Motorsports for an investment of “several million dollars”. The 73-year-old will take a hands-on role as the team’s boss. RPM ran four cars this year and will run two Fords next year for AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose. Roush-Fenway Racing, Ford’s top NASCAR team, will supply chassis and engines. Australian Ambrose has shown lots of ability during the last two years with JTG Daugherty Racing after breaking into NASCAR in 2007. Allmendinger came up through Formula Atlantic and Champ Cars, demonstrating plenty of talent before moving to NASCAR in ‘07 with Red Bull and then joining Petty last year.

Stanley Tools will sponsor Ambrose’s car and Best Buy will back Allmendinger. Andrew Murstein told the New York Times that without the weight of Gillett’s debt burden, Petty Motorsports’s finances are in good shape and will enjoy US$30m in sponsorship next year. Medallion Financial, by the way, finances the purchase of taxi medallions in New York, Boston, Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

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Petty’s team is NASCAR’s oldest, starting in 1949 with Richard’s father Lee doing the driving. Lee won 54 races and three championships before Richard took over, winning 200 races and seven championships. In total the team has won 273 first-division NASCAR races from more than 3300 starts. We wish the King the best of luck on his team’s 63rd season.

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