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WATKINS GLEN -- One thing is certain: AJ Allmendinger will be driving a Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion for the next three years.
Team officials announced that Allmendinger had signed a multi-year extension through 2013 that would keep the Californian in the cockpit of the No. 43 Ford for the rest of this season and three more on top of it.
It’s a good thing, too, because if he hadn’t signed, RPM would have to replace three and possibly all four of its 2010 driver contingent before Daytona.
“I think this is a wonderful move for the company and we are really excited about it,” said team principal Foster Gillett. “We really appreciate everyone’s hard work to get this done and we really appreciate all of the support of our wonderful partners to make this possible. AJ has worked really hard on the track and with our sponsors to become an integral part of our family. From Richard’s and my standpoint, any thought of him not driving for us was a difficult one.”
While no sponsors were mentioned for the future, Allmendinger was quick to point out current backers Best Buy and Valvoline.
“It has been an exciting year for me,” Allmendinger said. “It is the first time in my career that I could say I have been at a place that I could build off of. That was something that between all the partners, as Foster said, especially with Best Buy and Valvoline, I have had more fun than I have ever had in my race career.
“To be able to drive the No. 43 has been a huge honor that I really enjoy. With the partnership with Ford, there are a lot of really great things happening at Richard Petty Motorsports. We looked at a lot of places and went through a lot of things and Tara, my manager; she asked a lot of hard questions. In the end, we got the answers that we wanted.
“I feel like this is a place that I can just keep building on. We are definitely not where we want to be when it comes to where we are at right now, but I see the potential and want to keep building a team around me that continues to get better and go out and contend for victories every weekend and hopefully eventually get a championship. That is the goal.”
Gillett and Richard Petty hinted that more moves were in the making in the next few weeks.
“We are excited to start with AJ and the No. 43 car because it is important to all of us,” Gillett said. “We are going to go down a path here for a few weeks and hopefully have a lot more news as we go. It is exciting times here at Richard Petty Motorsports.”
Petty added that more was coming.
“We have some announcements in our pocket. We like to have press conferences, so we wanted to spread it out a little bit,” he said to general laughter.
With the departure of Kahne to Hendrick and Sadler to parts unknown as yet, and the possibility that Menard may take his father’s home-improvement sponsorship elsewhere for 2011, serious questions remain about what the sponsor lineup will be for Allmendinger and whomever the team signs to replace the two drivers leaving.
“Obviously we have an opportunity we are seeking and things we have already done that we are waiting to talk about,” Gillett said. “It starts here and we will see over the coming weeks as we roll out or driving roster and partner roster we will have answers as we go along. Things are very good here. Richard and I were talking last weekend in Pocono and you saw a smile on both of our faces because it felt positive with what we were going through and what we had ahead.”
One possibility is adding the popular Marcos Ambrose, who announced his intention to leave JTG Daugherty Racing at the end of the season to pursue other interests. Speculation has him taking over the No. 9 car that Kahne currently drives, likely without Budweiser as the sponsor.