Petty’s team sitting pretty


Richard Petty has been in NASCAR for 50 years as a driver and team owner. His family’s racing roots go back to 1949 when his father Lee competed in NASCAR’s first Grand National race. Lee won 54 races and three NASCAR titles. His son Richard started racing in 1958 and set a new standard for the sport, of course, winning 200 races and seven championships, thus earning his title of ‘the King’.


Petty raced until 1992 and his team, Petty Enterprises, kept going – first with son Kyle and then a string of other drivers. But Petty Enterprises’ last win came in 1999 and 12 months ago it merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, moving from its shop in tiny Level Cross, North Carolina to Mooresville, north of Charlotte, in the heart of NASCAR country. Kasey Kahne (below) won two races this year and finished tenth in the championship for the new Richard Petty Motorsports team. But over the past month Petty has merged his operation again, this time with Robert Yates’s team, cutting the workforce by half and switching his four cars driven by Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Reed Sorenson and Elliott Sadler from Dodges to Fords.


“We’re changing all our stuff over from Dodge to Ford,” says Petty. “This time last year we were doing the Gillett-Evernham deal. The year before that we moved from Level Cross to Mooresville. The last three years, every year has been different. So we’re just trying to get our hands around where we’re at.

“We feel pretty good. The cars are pretty much the same, so we’re not so concerned about that. But we do feel the Ford engine is going to be a bit of an advantage over what we had before.

“Ford puts a bit more into their engine department than Dodge did. It’s a tick here and a tick there. Our team and drivers are looking forward to a new chapter in our book.”


Allmendinger (above) raced a Ford in the final three NASCAR Sprint Cup races of 2009 and ran in the top 10, better than he had for most of the year in the Dodge. “That was probably as good as AJ ran all year long and it gave Kasey [Kahne] and the other drivers the confidence to say if he can do it, we can,” says Petty. “From the team’s standpoint they’re saying, ‘Hey, this might not be a bad race car.’ So what AJ was able to do has made it a little easier. If we had trouble in those three races that would have made for a long winter.

“But it’s going to be a pretty short winter converting all our stuff over and getting everybody moved around and organised. We’ve changed a lot of the organisation and we’re working with Ford and getting all lined up to run four cars. It’s kinda confusing because there’s a lot going on, but it’s a busy and happy time.”

Petty is one of the world’s greatest racers and it’s a delight to see so much enthusiasm for next season burning fiercely in his heart. At 72, he’s as engaged as ever in the sport he loves.


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