This morning Smithfield announced that they’d be leaving Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and heading towards Stewart-Haas Racing. To me, I thought the wording in the statement had a few shots geared towards RPM. The two sides were great supporters of one another, but Smithfield made it sound that they were leaving due to the lack of performance out of RPM.
Granted, they have every right to think that, after all, RPM is struggling lately. They’ll even admit that. But, here’s a exerpt of what they said.
“The decision to leave Richard Petty Motorsports and join Stewart-Haas Racing was difficult but we feel this move will improve our competitiveness on the track.”
That’s basically saying that SHR could give their colors and their rolling billboard more success than RPM could. They’d come out and say so this evening too. More on that in a bit.
But, RPM answered saying that they were upset by this decision and that they had a handshake agreement in place and that basically Smithfield caught them off guard.
“We have had numerous discussions with Smithfield Foods regarding the extension of our relationship dating as far back as February,” a statement from RPM read. “Over the past few months, Smithfield had continually told me they wanted to be with us, and I recently shook hands on a deal to extend our relationship. I come from a time when we did major deals with sponsors like STP on a handshake. I’m sad to see this is where we are now. This decision is very unexpected, and we are extremely disappointed in this late and abrupt change of direction.
“Losing a sponsor of this magnitude in September is a significant set-back to Richard Petty Motorsports, but Andy (Murstein) and I are committed to moving forward with the No. 43 team. We have a lot of great partners who have expressed their continued support, and our fans will rally around the No. 43. We’ve been around since 1949, and we’ll be around a lot longer.”
Now, Smithfield, instead of letting this go, fired back. They did so with some damaging comments in this statement too.
“We are extremely disappointed that Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) has chosen to disparage Smithfield – its lead sponsor – after five years and tens of millions of dollars of unwavering financing support, despite years of subpar performance on the track,” Smithfield President and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth M. Sullivan said. “RPM’s claims of a ‘handshake deal’ to extend our sponsorship are unequivocally and patently false. Smithfield’s numerous discussions with RPM over the past several months focused exclusively around one issue: RPMs inability to deliver on the track and the organization’s repeated failure to present a plan to address its lack of competitiveness. Smithfield is a performance driven company and we demand performance from the people we do business with. For that reason – and that reason alone- Smithfield decided not to renew its contract with RPM when it expires at the end of the year. It is very unfortunate and disheartening that RPM has chosen to disseminate false statements regarding our communications to NASCAR fans who we have supported wholeheartedly with more than a $100 million investment in the sport over the last several years.”
This is a bizarre set of circumstance now that usually the sponsor stays quiet. Instead, this once dream relationship that began five years ago is heading towards a messy divorce.