Kahne holds off Stewart for first road course win
SONOMA, Calif. — 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 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 over a decade with a much-needed win — on a road course, of all places — at Infineon Raceway on Sunday.
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 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 congratulatory 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. Rebranded as Richard Petty Motorsports, the four-car organization kicked off the season with a strong showing at the Daytona 500.
But it's been a rough ride, since.
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.
Just Saturday, majority team owner George Gillett agreed to sell the NHL's Montreal Canadiens in a deal that should help him fight any solvency issues.
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.