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Monday, June 7, 2010

Richard Petty Motorsports has teammate turmoil

So that big wreck at the end of the Pocono wreck, in addition to tearing up a lot of good racecars, also did something else: Expose a big rift in the Richard Petty Motorsports team, where outgoing drivers seem unhappy with their teammates and want out as soon as possible.

The wreck, which sent Kasey Kahne violently into the wall before he collected others, began when Kahne tried to pass teammate A.J. Allmendinger, but Dinger made a move to “block” him, as the announcers put it.

Funny they put it that way, because I saw him just protecting his position. That’s the whole point of racing. Kahne could’ve backed off and not gone onto the grass and into the wall, but he didn’t and we saw the result. Allmendinger admitted his move caused the wreck, but added that he was just defending his position.

This whole feud goes far beyond this particular incident, though. Kahne is a big star, so he believes that position belonged to him and A.J. should have let him pass.

But there’s a problem with that thinking. Despite Kahne being the biggest name on the team now, next year Dinger will be the star at RPM. Kahne is off to some yet-to-be-named Hendrick affiliate, and may have already mentally checked out on the team as he has visions of sugarplums and Hendrick motors in his future.

Elliot Sadler is not going to be around either. That leaves A.J. and Paul Menard sticking around, and Allmendinger is the best choice to lead the team in that pair.

So who's the most important guy on the team: The star who's leaving, or the lesser-known guy who could lead the team into the future? I'd say there's a very good debate in there, so Kahne shouldn't expect his teammates to just give him spots.

If the RPM team wants to have a good finish to 2010, they'll do whatever is needed to cool down any in-house rivalries. It's a distraction the team doesn't need as they try to build up their program.

Gordon in a Toyota?
Yes. Jeff Gordon drove a Toyota this week at Watkins Glen during a test.

Don’t panic, Chevy fans. It wasn’t his car. He and Marcos Ambrose swapped rides for a few laps, with manufacturer approval of course, to see if they could learn anything that would help them in the August race.

Ambrose said he was thrilled to have the opportunity to drive the 4-time champ’s car.

“There’s probably only a handful of people in the world that can say they drove Jeff Gordon’s race car,” the JTG Daugherty Racing driver said. “It was a real thrill for me. I will never forget it.”

Gordon, a many-times road course winner, said the experience showed him that Ambrose is even better than him at the road races.

“I learned two things there at the test,” Gordon said Friday. “One is that when Marcos Ambrose goes really fast through the road courses, it’s not his race car. He’s just really fast. He got in my car and went really fast. I got in his car and went slow. It was just basically that Marcos is fast and that we’ve got really good power. That’s what I learned.”

I like stuff like this, whether it’s within NASCAR or the Cup-Formula 1 swap at Indy between Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya years ago.

Usually, this kind of brand-switching isn’t allowed. Kyle Petty was fined $45,000 by Dodge in 2004 for relieving Kevin Harvick during a race at Bristol without permission.

2nd place for Danica
Danica Patrick, who will be running a couple Nationwide races in the next month, had a great weekend, finishing 2nd in the Indycar race Texas, her best finish since her 2008 win in Japan. In the process though, she didn’t make any friends, cutting off her teammate Tony Kanaan and nearly causing an accident.

Scariest moment of the race: Simona de Silvestro wrecked, her car caught on fire, and the rescue crew took their sweet time getting her out of the car and putting out the fire. They’re lucky she wasn’t seriously burned.

Penske’s super weekend
So this weekend, Roger Penske’s driver Ryan Briscoe won the wild Indycar race at Texas, his driver Brad Keselowski won the Nationwide race, and late in the Cup race his driver Sam Hornish had a legitimate shot to win his first Cup race.

All in all, I’d say this weekend was pretty good for the Captain.

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