By admin | September 28, 2009
By Richard Allen
Of all the end of season wrangling and maneuvering the story that is easily the most intriguing to me is the proposed merger between Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing. The reason for the intrigue revolves around Kasey Kahne and his possible reunification with Ford Motor Company.
At one time Kahne was the golden child of Ford. He had been snapped up by the auto maker and placed in their development program with an ultimate goal of making him into a Sprint Cup superstar. Well, as it turns out, Kahne has indeed become a racing star, just not in the way originally planned.
In 2002 and 2003 Kahne drove Fords on the Busch Series for Yates Racing and Brad Akins. However, in 2004 things changed for both the driver and the auto maker as Kahne ended his relationship with Ford and became the full time driver in the #9 Sprint Cup Dodge fielded by Ray Evernham.
The problem for all involved was there were issues that had to be worked out and the dissolution of the Kahne/Ford relationship was not one easily resolved. Ford believed they had a binding contract with the driver and expected him to honor it. Kahne, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to move the NASCAR’s ultimate level sooner than planned and went with that option.
In the end, lawyers had to be brought in to bring about a final ending to the matter. Needless to say, the divorce between Ford and Kahne was not a pleasant one. There were plenty of hard feelings on both sides.
Now, with the RPM-Yates merger possibly taking place in 2010, Kahne could be back behind the wheel of a Ford. So, there are some interesting questions going into this new formation.
Can bygones be bygones for the two sides? Can they move forward despite the disagreeable way they broke up? Will Ford be willing to support and market their new driver?
Considering the not-so-business-friendly economic climate in the sport today, RPM and Yates are probably glad to simply remain in place as going concerns. And, with the season Ford has had in 2009 since the first two races of the year, they are probably glad to add someone, anyone, who has the capability to win races.
The original relationship between Ford and Kasey Kahne came to a sour ending. Perhaps this time around the two will have a longer and more productive time together.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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