On the heels of concerns about the survivability of Richard Petty Motorsports it appears the organization has indeed one driver on tap for the 2011 season. Marcos Ambrose, whose contract with JTG comes to an end this year, will join RPM piloting the #9 car.
This all comes after there were questions raised earlier this week to whether the George Gillette owned organization had drivers for any of it’s cars next season. With Kasey Kahne leaving the #9 and Elliott Sadler on his way out the talk surrounding RPM has been attempts to resign driver A.J. Allmendinger who would likely return to the #43 car. If Allmendinger is resigned it’s likely that Paul Menard returns to the #98 but there is still a chance he could leave for Richard Childress Racing.
The results this season haven’t been what Ambrose and the rest of the #47 crew had hoped for. The biggest blunder came at Infineon Raceway when Ambrose turned his engine off while leading the race in an ill advised attempt to save fuel.
Last season Amrbose posted four top-5’s and seven top-10’s. This season those numbers have fallen to zero and two.
The fact that the JTG race team is supported by Michael Waltrip Racing is not lost on anyone. In fact it’s almost hard to remember that Ambrose is not actually a driver for Michael Waltrip Racing.
But is a move to RPM an upgrade or just another sideways step?
Thus far it’s hard to tell. The upside at RPM is obviously far greater then at JTG with the possibility of four full time teammates and the partnership that has been cultivated with Roush-Fenway Racing. But what remains to be seen is just how the teams at Petty Motorsports will be constructed. Currently the organization is struggeling to find any success outside of the #9 car and how much of that is a result of the driver also is a question.
Paul Menard started the 2010 season out relatively strong yet has done little since. A.J. Allmendinger has had spurts where he looked capable of winning a race but more often then not finds himself in the back kof the pack. The talk about the #19 team of Elliott Sadler is how close they came to winning the 2009 Daytona 500 which comes across as some sort of excuse for their poor results since. Kasey Kahne has done fairly well this year when you consider he’s dealt with engine troubles, is leaving the team and the crew may be unemployed coming this winter.
When it’s all done though one has to look at the bigger picture. Ambrose sees that the opportunity to be competitive is far greater at RPM then JTG. At RPM he joins an organization that has the ability to be four cars deep who has put together some solid yet inconsistent runs. At JTG he’s on a team asking Michael Waltrip for parts.