Richard Petty Motorsports has made news this season for all the wrong reasons. Caught in the financial crunch of Chrysler’s bankruptcy, the team had a recent round of layoffs and companywide salary reductions.
Star driver Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw has been openly unhappy with RPM’s slow development of an improved Dodge motor, and the organization can’t shake whispers about its long-term stability.
A win can cure most of those ills.
Kahne returned team co-owner Richard Petty to Victory Lane for the first time in a decade with a much-needed win — on a road course — at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on Sunday.
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It snapped a 37-race winless streak for Kahne, who last won at Pocono a year ago, and the first win for a Petty-owned car since John Andretti’s victory at Martinsville (Va.) in April 1999.
“I feel just as good as (Kahne) does,” The King, clad in his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses, said before he sipped on a celebratory glass of red wine. “It’s great, man. It’s great.”
Petty’s race team teetered on the verge of collapse at the end of last season and needed a January merger with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports to secure the storied NASCAR team.
Team manufacturer Chrysler is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and funding to RPM has slowed to a crawl as Dodge restructures. The team laid off nine employees earlier this month while slashing salaries across the board, leading to quiet questions the last few weeks about a perceived financial instability.
It’s made for a frustrating season for Kahne, the star of the team, who at times this year has been vocal about RPM’s slow progress. His criticism prompted team officials to push out a new Dodge engine, and the improved engine had given Kahne hope that there’s reason for optimism.
“To me, we started the season a little bit behind,” Kahne said. “But it gave the guys that work at Richard Petty Motorsports a chance to build some better race cars, some better engines and work on the setups. It’s paid off. Today was a bonus, and it shows that we do have a lot of smart, really good people who work hard.”
Franchitti wins Iowa 250
Dario Franchitti took the lead with 50 laps to go and cruised to victory in the Iowa Corn Indy 250 in Newton, earning his second win in two trips to Iowa Speedway.
Franchitti beat Ryan Briscoe by just over five seconds to take his first checkered flag since the Streets of Long Beach in April and move into second place in the IRL standings. It was the 10th career IndyCar win for the Scot, who took the lead three laps after making his final pit stop.
Vettel wins British GP
Sebastian Vettel cruised to victory in the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England, leading Red Bull to a 1-2 finish for the second time this season.
POWER OF 10
The 10 victories on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit for Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne:
SundayToyota/Save Mart 350
10-14-06Bank of America 500
9-3-06Sony HD 500
6-18-063M Performance 400
3-19-06Golden Corral 500
5-14-05Chevy Amer. Rev. 400