Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Your Mid-Week NASCAR News

Well this week has not been quite in terms of news emerging from the world of NASCAR, and do I mean world. Reports began emerging Tuesday that George Gillett, majority owner in Richard Petty Motorsports had signed "an ‘exclusive commercial collaboration’ agreement for his stake in the team to Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud, a member of the Saudi Royal Family," according to the NASCAR Examiner. As you could imagine, this had fans outraged and suspicious at the news, believing the most famous team in all of NASCAR had been sold to a prince from Saudi Arabia.

As the news and rumors spread throughout the day, Richard Petty Motorsports issued a statement attempting to squash the rumors, saying, "there are no major ownership changes contemplated at Richard Petty Motorsports. The Gilletts are the majority owners of Richard Petty Motorsports and plan on being so for a long time."

The agreement will expand NASCAR's reach into the Saudi Kingdom and throughout the Middle East by establishing Richard Petty Driving Experiences and and the development of a Middle Eastern NASCAR series in the region.

“The Middle East sport market has immense growth potential as eager fans in the region demand access to more diverse, higher caliber competition," Gillett explained. "I am delighted, enthusiastic, and honored to have the opportunity to partner with such a visionary in His Highness Prince Faisal."

Prince Faisal represented the Saudi sports investment firm F6. The Saudi prince explained the deal would bring some of the biggest names in all of sports - Gillett is also an owner of the Liverpool Football Club and the Montreal Canadiens, among other things - to sports hungry Saudi Kingdom.

“George Gillett is at the helm of some of the most powerful and celebrated sports brands in the world,” Prince Faisal said. “F6 is energized about the strategic partnership with his groups and seeks to lead the way with our investment partners in identifying the brands, personalities, facilities, and media that will catalyze the evolution of sporting experiences in the Kingdom and beyond, thereby introducing thousands of quality employment opportunities within Saudi Arabia.”

The facts of the matter point to expansion of the NASCAR brand and the Petty name to a region of the world that is the twenty-third most wealthy nation in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook, and is eager to find new sources of entertainment and commerce. However, many feel this is Gillett's first step towards selling his stake in the team. I'm not one for speculation, so we'll just have to see how this all plays out.

In other news, Jimmie Johnson has been the talk of the town, so to speak, after his win Sunday in Dover. Despite trailing teammate Mark Martin by ten points in the Chase, many in the media and throughout the NASCAR nation feel Sunday's victory proved Johnson was once again the man to beat for the title. If he can maintain this top-notch performance over the next eight weeks there will be a new page in the history books with Johnson's name on it as the only driver to win four titles in a row.

While some are ready to give Johnson the title, Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya are not ready to concede just two races into the Chase. The 50-year-old is still in command of the points lead and, with is runner-up finish in Dover - his second top-2 of the Chase, Martin shows little signs of slowing. Headed to a track he has one win, two top-5s and three top-10s, Martin appears he will be a factor once again this weekend.

For Montoya, the aggressiveness and determination to make the most of this opportunity at the title has the former open-wheel star sitting third in points, sixty-five marks out of first. Consistency and patience got Montoya in the Chase and now that he is there, he is making the most of it. However, the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver will have to improve on his two previous finishes - 28th and 20th - at the Kansas Speedway if he wants to stay in contention.

Despite conflict between driver and crew chief, the No. 2 Penske Racing team has been able to remain a factor in the title as well. Crew chief Pat Tryson is only allowed in the shop once a week after announcing he would be joining Michael Waltrip Racing in 2010. While some conflict remains over the radio during the race, Tryson and driver Kurt Busch have been able to perform. A fifth-place run at Dover put the former series champion fourth in the standings, seventy-five points out of first.

Looking forward to Kansas, Jimmie Johnson is the defending race winner, but who could forget Carl Edwards' last lap attempt to steal the win. Heading into Turn 3 on the final lap, Edwards drove deep into the corner under Johnson and completed the pass...momentarily. Unable to hold the car to the bottom, the No. 99 shot up the track and into the outside wall as Johnson backed off a bit, watched Edwards slide up into the wall and then drove past for the win. Fuel mileage may come into play once again this weekend and, as always, the double-file restarts will create some exciting and dramatic racing.

Check back to Your NASCAR News this weekend to follow all the happenings at the Kansas Speedway.

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