The merger between Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing still isn't done. The team hasn't moved into its new shop, but they've proceeded with their conversion from Dodge to Ford.
Despite all the unfinished business, Kasey Kahne hasn't noticed much of a difference.
While the deal is supposed to be completed in two weeks, Kahne said his team has focused solely on finding more speed and using the first seven months to get ready for the Chase for the Championship.
"I think that a huge part of NASCAR is making the Chase," Kahne said. "You start on that at Daytona."
Kahne finished seventh in the standings last year after winning two races. The No. 9 team used up a lot of energy - and equipment - just to qualify for the Chase. Their strategy for the new season will be to lock themselves into the playoffs early and save their best cars and engines for the Chase.
"I really think it's been a pretty big focus since it started because everybody knows how important it is to be in that top 10, top 12, and making the Chase for your teams, for your sponsors," Kahne said. "It's a big part of it right now. I think it's huge."
Since cars are so similar, Kahne said he hasn't noticed a big difference between Dodge and Ford, and that's helped him keep most of his team together.
"I think we stuck with our same team," he said. "We have the same core group of guys that were on the 9 car. We have a little bit different body with the Ford body. We have a different group of people we're working with, a touch more power. I think we're going to have a better engine package. Working with a bigger group of people should benefit everyone at RPM.
"To me it's a little bit of a bonus. I'm looking forward to it. But our cars drive the same way they did last year really."
The new RPM lineup this year will include Kahne, Elliott Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger and Paul Menard. Sadler helped the team get a jump on their conversion to Ford by driving a Taurus in a handful of races during the Chase. He said the move to Ford will make the team better.
"We definitely are staying in touch with each other, having meetings weekly," Sadler said. "Everybody's excited to get to Daytona. But we still need a little bit more time. We're building new cars, trying to get everything as prepared as we can so when we leave to go down for the 500 we have our Vegas and Atlanta cars and California cars and all the stuff done."
Sluggish job market
Reed Sorenson found part-time work for 2010 in the Nationwide Series. While it's a significant drop compared to driving full-time in the Sprint Cup Series, he's glad to have a job.
Sorenson will drive in selected races for the No. 32 Braun Racing team. Brian Vickers, who works fulltime with Red Bull Racing on the Cup side, will drive the rest.
"I'm looking forward to going to tracks I haven't ran in a couple of years," Sorenson said. "I think we definitely can win some races this year. I'm excited to have that feeling again where we go to the racetrack every weekend and we have a shot to win and we feel like we're one of the best teams there."
David Stremme and Casey Mears haven't been able to replace their fulltime jobs as Cup drivers.
Stremme said he's in line to drive for a new Nationwide Series team that's scheduled to hit the track in 2011. But until then, he's still looking.
"I'm like some of the other drivers: just looking for a ride, doing stuff," Stremme said. "We'll see what happens real quick. I want to go around with a team that I can have fun with and be competitive. A lot of guys have to do start-and-parks to survive. I'm not in that position where I have to do that. I want to race. I've always grown up racing, trying to win."