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RPM owner, prince talk Saudi circuit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- George Gillett Jr., majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, said he hopes to form a stock-car league in Saudi Arabia as part of a contractual agreement he signed this week with Saudi Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family.

But Gillett emphasized that he is not selling the team. He said he hopes to finalize a merger with Yates Racing soon, and that RPM will race Fords in 2010.

Gillett believed the need to address many issues about RPM, after some reports this week falsely stated Gillett's new deal with the Saudi prince would lead to the prince's sports management team taking over RPM.

"I came back from Europe into a maelstrom of massively inaccurate stories," Gillett said Saturday at Kansas Speedway. "So I thought we could correct it and move forward.

"As part of our conversations [with the Saudis], it became clear we should have aligned interest. We discussed if they had an interest in buying a small interest in RPM. A majority? Heck, no.

"It was a very early conversation, but it was completely distorted. I come here today as a man with a clear conscious and potentially a very attractive partner. If he becomes a small investor [in RPM] I can't imagine it would be anything but positive for the sport. That's the story."

Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president of corporate communication, said the Saudi prince is welcome if he chooses to partner with Gillett.

"Our [team] ownership is open to people everywhere," Hunter said. "If one of our current owners wants to partner up with [the Saudis], that's OK with us."

Gillett said he and the Saudis are in talks to form some type of stock-car league overseas.

"We have had extended conversation about developing a race series," Gillett said. "They have several extraordinary road courses [in Saudi Arabia], but they've identified 14 sites where you might put an oval track or two, or 14.

"I really don't have the answers. No money has been invested. This is purely at the talking stage. But I do believe the general concept is shorter rather than longer oval tracks with a development series and an overall series."

Gillett said he was surprised to learn how enthusiastic the Saudis are about NASCAR and racing in general.

"They have a tremendous interest in speed and love automobiles," he said. "I don't think any of us had any idea the respect they have for this kind of racing."

Gillett's bigger concern for the moment is completing the merger with Yates Racing and the switch from Dodge to Ford for 2010.

"You all know what we have faced," Gillett said. "When Chrysler went through bankruptcy, there was a clear understanding that we were going to have to find a new manufacturer. Dodge has been a very good partner for us. It was a serious loss and a daunting challenge to find a new home."

Gillett is confident the deal with Yates and Ford will be completed soon.

"Most of it is in the hands of lawyers at this point, which frankly scares me," he said. "But I'm not aware of any significant open issues. I have no reason to think we won't get things done.

"The prospect of having Ford power with the chassis we have, that are extraordinarily good handling, is a really positive story for the 2010 season."

Gillett said the merged RPM/Yates operation will be at least a three-car team and hopefully four cars. He would not confirm if those four drivers would be Kasey Kahne, A.J. Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler and Paul Menard, which was reported earlier.

But Gillett did want to make some specific points about his goals.

"Do we plan on being in NASCAR? Heck, yes," he said. "Do we intend to be partners with Richard Petty? You bet. Do we hopefully win a championship or two in the next few years? Absolutely. Do we want to do it with the people currently with us like Kasey and A.J.? The answer is yes."

Gillett dismissed recent talk that RPM was in chaos after director of competition Mark McArdle left the team in a dispute with Gillett.

Kahne, who made the Chase this season, recently said he didn't know whom to get answers from about the organization.

"Kasey is a very dear young man," Gillett said. "He is not used to media and doesn't particularly like the process. I think he was trying to give an answer that would shut the conversation off. Kasey has been fully aware and apprised of the conversations going on."

Gillett also said he expects Robbie Loomis to remain the vice president of RPM. Gillett expects the team to move from its location in Statesville, N.C., to the Yates shop in Concord, N.C.

"We work on a three-year planning cycle and we have a three-year plan," Gillett said.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com.