Menard a key element in pending Petty-Yates deal?

The two big unknowns about the pending merger between Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing can be summed up in two words: "When?" and "If."

The two sides have executed a letter of intent and are working toward finalizing the deal. The new organization will continue under the Richard Petty Motorsports name and will switch from Dodge to Ford next season.

According to a joint release two weeks ago at Richmond, the team's lineup will include current RPM drivers Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and A.J. Allmendinger as well as Yates driver Paul Menard.

Team co-owner Richard Petty estimated Sept. 12 at Richmond that the deal could be concluded within two weeks, but that projection now appears optimistic, as the parties are still ironing out the details.

Menard is a key element, in that he brings with him sponsorship from Menards, the Midwestern home-improvement chain founded and owned by his father, John Menard. Though Paul Menard affirmed his commitment to the deal Friday at Dover International Speedway, his assessment of the merger was frequently qualified by the word "if."

"We don't know a whole lot about it right now," said Menard, who found out about the merger the week of the announcement, as did the RPM drivers. "I know the people that matter in the two teams are talking. I'm not, obviously, involved in any of the discussions, but I think, if it all comes together, it will be a good thing for both teams.

"There's a lot that both teams can bring to the table in development of chassis and engines and everything, so if it works out, it'll be good. … They're in the Chase [with Kahne], and them coming to the Ford camp, there's a good starting spot, I think, between all the teams — with all the four teams working together, we can improve everybody."

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