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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Newton: Gillett no savior for NASCAR


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Good riddance, George Gillett.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Sorry, but it needs to be said, particularly after the public relations statement Richard Petty made Monday after his deal with Medallion Financial Corp. and DGB Investments eliminated Gillett from ownership of Richard Petty Motorsports.

In case you missed this part of the release, Petty said, "George and Foster Gillett deserve a great deal of credit for running a successful race team. They made a significant investment into the business and helped get [it] get back into Victory Lane.''

It's successful only if you call success laying off hundreds of employees, shutting down once-viable engine departments at Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises, making business and financial promises to Ray Evernham after buying majority interest of Evernham Motorsports before merging with the Pettys and failing to keep them, getting RPM into such debt that it barely made the final four races and downsizing RPM from a four- to two-car operation.

What the Gilletts did was basically run RPM into financial ruin and then slip out of town with their wallets between their legs.

And that's not counting the financial strain Gillett was on Roush Fenway Racing and Roush Yates Engines that supplied chassis and engines to RPM, or the many other vendors Gillett owed money before bailing.

It shouldn't come as a surprise. Gillett jumped ship from the Montreal Canadiens and the Liverpool soccer team because of his financial mismanagement. He is being sued for $117 million by lending firm Mill Financial over monies owed from the Liverpool investment.

I can understand to a degree why Petty might be thankful to Gillett. He enabled him to stay in the sport the past two seasons with his merger of GEM and Petty Enterprises.

But to say Gillett was successful at anything in NASCAR beyond keeping an already-struggling organization on life support is shameful. He left Petty holding the financial bag, forcing NASCAR's "King'' to dip into his own pocket to pay bills that allowed the team to race down the stretch.

The sport doesn't need owners like George Gillett.

Good riddance.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.