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Petty-Yates merger not quite finished... UPDATE Rumors of a Richard Petty Motorsports/Yates Racing merger began circulating a few months ago but it wasn't until today that the racing community could stop calling them rumors. "I'm here to announce the best kept secret in all of motorsports, which is that the merger between Yates Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports is officially completed," said Foster Gillette, managing partner of Richard Petty Motorsports, in a press conference Tuesday morning. The merger, which happened in December, brought some big changes along with it. During the 2010 season Richard Petty Motorsports will be running Ford Fusions, ending its long relationship with Dodge. Also, RPM will leave behind its previous home in Statesville, N.C., moving to the Yates Racing facility in Concord, N.C. Filling the four driver positions at RPM will be #19-Elliott Sadler, #9-Kasey Kahne, #43-AJ Allmendinger and #98-Paul Menard. "The addition of a great team, great talent of drivers - we have Elliott, Paul, Kasey, and AJ adding to the fleet of Fords out there on every Sunday," said Jamie Allison, Director of Ford Racing. "That's something to be looking forward to." Richard Petty Motorsports will maintain the alliance that Yates Racing had with Roush Fenway Racing and Doug Yates will be in charge or the Roush Yates engine program (press release)

AJ Allmendinger
The merger of Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing still hasn't been officially announced. But with two of its drivers, Paul Menard and A.J. Allmendinger, meeting media and fans during the weekend at the Preseason Thunder Daytona Fan Fest at Daytona International Speedway, things got more clear.

"Lots of changes [but] it's been good," said Menard, who last season drove for Yates. "I thought it would be more of a struggle than it was with the transition. Yates was based in Concord [N.C.], where RPM ultimately is going to be based. Right now we have to re-do the shop, so we're out of Statesville [N.C., RPM's location].

"Everything is a recipe for things not getting done, but things are getting done. I was at the shop for about five hours [Friday] and just amazed at how well everybody is mixing together, the Yates people and the RPM people combining. From what I can see, there's no egos getting involved and everybody is working hard with the goal of getting cars ready for Daytona and Fontana and Atlanta and Vegas and start out the season right."

Menard already has started working with his new crew chief, Slugger Labbe, who came from TRG Motorsports after last season. And Menard also will run the full Nationwide Series schedule, in a No. 98 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. There he'll work with crew chief Matt Puccia, with whom he did 16 races in 2009.

"Last year it opened my eyes [how] racing on Saturday is going to help you on Sunday, driving and understanding what the tires are doing, what the tracks are going to do -- just general racing stuff," Menard said. "So this year we put together a deal to run the whole year. Roush Fenway has got fast cars and I get to keep pretty much the core group of guys that we had part time last year."

Allmendinger, who last year drove RPM's No. 44 Dodge but this year steps into the legendary No. 43, which will carry Ford's blue oval for the first time since Richard Petty used Fords in 1969, also is enthused.

"I'd be lying if I said we were ahead of schedule [but] definitely everybody is working hard in the shop, my Daytona cars are about done and they're working on the process of getting the next group of cars in.

"I think as hard as they're working, I haven't seen that much excitement from the guys in a long time. I think that's the coolest thing is the fact that everybody knows the opportunity we have, being a part of Ford and working with Roush Fenway, having that relationship and trying to use the knowledge."

Allmendinger said the group was scheduled to test at New Smyrna Speedway, just down the road from Daytona in Samsula, Fla., on Monday.  nascar.com

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