(AP Photo/Terry Renna)

Richard Petty Motorsports’ future: Stay with Ford or potential move to Toyota, Chevy or Dodge?


Like a wheel of fortune, around and around and around it goes, and where Richard Petty Motorsports winds up at, still nobody knows.

Although some recent reports claim RPM will shift from Ford to Toyota for 2015, RPM vice president of competition Sammy Johns told MRN.com’s Dustin Long on Saturday that there has been no movement or decision on which manufacturer the organization will align itself with.

RPM has been with Ford since the last three races of the 2009 season, switching to the so-called blue oval after nearly two seasons with Dodge.

According to reports last month, team patriarch Richard Petty has had recent meetings with representatives of both Toyota and Ford.

Ford Racing director Jamie Allison said RPM’s contract with the manufacturer does not expire after this season, contrary to what other reports and rumors have indicated.

Conspicuous by its absence in reports and rumors about RPM’s future is a lack of discussion about a potential partnership with Chevrolet.

While RPM would likely have significant resources at its disposal if it affiliated with Chevrolet – perhaps more so than it currently has with Ford – if the legendary team indeed does leave Ford, it would most likely be headed to Toyota, if reports and rumors are to be believed.

As wild as some of the rumors and reports about RPM’s future have been, it would not be completely out of the realm of possibility that RPM may stay with Ford through 2015 and then potentially spearhead a possible return to Sprint Cup by Dodge. During its last round of negotiations with Ford back in 2012, Petty said at the time he would not rule out a return to Dodge.

Of course, that depends on if Dodge wants to get back into NASCAR, a possibility company officials have had little to say about of late.

The last time RPM’s contract came up for renewal with Ford, it was subsequently left without much of a choice but to remain with Ford when Dodge announced it would leave NASCAR at the end of that season, ironically enough right after Brad Keselowski and Team Penske won the championship in a Dodge Charger.

Also weighing heavy on the minds of the RPM braintrust is whether driver Marcos Ambrose will stay with the team or leave when his current contract expires at the end of this season.

There have been several reports that Ambrose is considering returning to his native Australia and to race on the increasingly popular V8 Supercars series, with some reports having Ambrose racing for a new team potentially to be owned by legendary IndyCar and NASCAR team owner Roger Penske.

However, Ambrose recently denied those rumors and insisted he wants to remain with RPM, an organization that is on the upswing.

During January’s annual preseason NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, Petty questioned whether Ambrose indeed would return for 2015.

“I don’t know how much longer he wants to stay in the U.S.,” Petty said candidly at the time. “You know, (Ambrose has) come a long way. He’s sort of a hero in Australia just because he’s running Cup. His big deal is if he could win on a round and around racetrack, that would be the optimum for him. If he did do that, he’d probably just go home and say, ‘Thank you guys,’ but I don’t know.”

All reports and rumors aside, the Sprint Cup Series races next weekend in the backyard of the Big Three manufacturers, namely, Michigan International Speedway.

If RPM is to make any announcement, particularly if it will stay with Ford or not, or whether it will jump to Toyota, Chevy or even Dodge, MIS would be a perfect venue to do so.

On another topic, Johns told MRN.com that RPM is looking for sponsorship for up-and-coming driver Corey LaJoie, son of former NASCAR driver Randy LaJoie.

The younger LaJoie won the ARCA race at Pocono last year, but was not in the field for Saturday’s race there.

Johns said the team hopes to have LaJoie do some Sprint Cup testing soon.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Astronaut has different kind of out of this world experience in an Indy car

HOUSTON, TX  - MARCH 4: NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly speaks to the media after returning from a one year mission in space aboard the International Space Station, at the Johnson Space Center March 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Kelly's his record-breaking yearlong mission was intended to provide critical data to understand how to keep astronauts healthy during long space voyages.  (Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Retired astronaut Cmdr. Scott Kelly has had a number of out of this world experiences, particularly serving three stints on the International Space Station.

There’s not much that can top that.

But to hear Kelly tell it, his recent visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and taking a ride around the legendary 2.5-mile oval in a two-seat Indy car – may have come pretty close.

Kelly and NASA PR rep Amiko Kauderer both took to Twitter to tout their respective rides that day, along with another tweet from IMS president Doug Boles.

Check them out:

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Congratulations to IndyCar driver JR Hildebrand on marriage to Kristin Paine

Indianapolis 500 - Practice
Getty Images
Leave a comment

While he’s still in the market for a full-time IndyCar ride in 2017, JR Hildebrand is officially off the market when it comes to the single life.

The Sausalito, California native, who now lives in Colorado, tied the knot on Oct. 16 with long-time girlfriend Kristin Paine in Boulder.

We wish the new Mr. & Mrs. Hildebrand all the best.

In the meantime, now back from their honeymoon, JR posted a few photos from before and after the wedding (photos are via @JRHildebrand on Twitter):

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Perez: “This year’s Mexican GP will be even better than last year’s”

xxxx during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 31, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sergio Perez is not expecting a sophomore slump for the second edition of the Mexican Grand Prix back on the calendar since 1992, in its second year at the refurbished, renovated and relaunched Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

If anything, the Sahara Force India driver expects the race to build on what it did last year, when it came back to a Formula 1 calendar after a 23-year hiatus.

“I have no doubt this year’s event will be even better than last year – expectations are huge following the success of 2015,” he said in the team’s pre-race advance.

“For me, the biggest surprise was the passion of the fans: all the affection I received, all the messages and all the incredible moments I experienced are what really made an impression on me. I am so happy to go back there.”

This is very much a home race for Perez, who finished eighth in it last year, but who could be poised to end better this go-around.

He is from Guadalajara and not Mexico City proper, but still holds an affinity for his home country’s capital city.

“Mexico City may be quite far from my city of Guadalajara, but I go there very often for professional reasons,” he said. “It’s a city I love and there’s so much going on: the best restaurants, so many sights and so many things to do. It is a huge city and sometimes traffic makes going from one side of town to the other feel like an adventure!

“It is, not surprisingly, one of my favorite moments in the season and last year’s was special not just for me, but for my team and for anyone who came to the race.”

Perez currently sits seventh in the Driver’s Championship with 84 points, having moved ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas as “best of the rest” behind the top six drivers from Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari at last week’s United States Grand Prix from Circuit of The Americas.

Gutierrez: “It’s a very special week for my whole career”

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 30:  Esteban Gutierrez announced as driver for Haas F1 Team on October 30, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images for Haas)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez will have his first chance to race on home soil in Formula 1, when the Haas F1 Team driver competes in this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Gutierrez, then a Ferrari reserve driver, was announced in Mexico City last year as Haas’ second driver for 2016, alongside Romain Grosjean. But while he was at the track, he hasn’t been in a car here and that will change this weekend.

With the new version of the Haas VF-16 front wing expected to return to his chassis this weekend, Gutierrez is looking for a big weekend on home soil.

“It’s a very special week for my whole career,” he said in the team’s advance release. “It’s probably one of the best two weeks of my career because it represents so much to racing, to motorsports in Mexico in general, and to me. It’s a kind of connection where I can share my passion for racing and what I do with all Mexicans. I feel grateful for their support.”

Gutierrez reflected on what last year in Mexico was like for him.

“Last year was great. I could live the event from a different perspective, but now it will be even better when I will be racing there. I’m very excited to enjoy that.

“The atmosphere was amazing. I enjoyed it so much. Obviously, I would have liked to have been racing, but that was my position and the reality is that I wanted to enjoy in that perspective. It was a very special weekend and I felt very proud to see all the fans having a huge interaction. It turned out to be one of the best events of the season.”

With the new front wing expected and the circuit’s long straights expected to suit the Haas, which doesn’t have a ton of downforce, it could play to his and the team’s benefit this weekend.

“Romain ran the new front wing all weekend. Esteban did 20 laps on Friday and then we discovered a problem with the front wing. We had to go back to the old version because we had no spare because that was damaged in Japan when Esteban had the contact with Carlos Sainz. These wings are very complicated to make and they take a long time, but we should have the new version of the wing again for Esteban in Mexico,” team principal Guenther Steiner said.

Gutierrez added, “It will be important to do the best we can with our car. It’s a track we believe can suit the style of our car, and we’re hoping that will be the case. It’s going to be important to have as much track time as possible to adapt to the circuit.”

Several finishes of 11th have left Gutierrez on the fringes of scoring a point this season, but not yet having cracked the top-10 in any race this season.