Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Voice of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Tuesday July 22, 2008
Two weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway, the Petty Enterprises cars of Bobby and Terry Labonte carried special paint schemes to commemorate the first race ever run by NASCAR’s winningest driver — the man most refer to simply as “The King.” It was on July 12, 1958 that a 21-year-old kid named Richard Petty, with “Squirrel Jr.” scrawled out on his fenders, made his debut at Columbia Speedway in Columbia, SC, in NASCAR’s convertible division. King Richard finished sixth that day, taking home $800 for his efforts in what was a clean, respectable outing to begin his racing resume. That wouldn’t even buy you a set of Goodyear Eagles in today’s world; but back in 1958, it wasn’t all that bad for an afternoon’s work.
But little did anyone know there were plenty more respectable results ahead — and most of them coming with a far bigger paycheck. 50 years and 200 Cup Series wins later, that day served as a humble beginning to a career that would transcend eight American presidents, two major wars, and the transition of NASCAR from a regional underground pastime of moonshine runners to the forefront of corporate America — and the sporting world as a whole.
Richard Petty was born on July 2, 1937 in North Carolina to parents Elizabeth and Lee. His father was himself a driver, in the midst of establishing one of the most impressive resumes of NASCAR’s golden era of the mid-to-late-50s. During that time, Lee Petty won 54 races, three championships, and nearly a quarter of a million dollars in the sport’s top-ranked Grand National division — which today is known as Sprint Cup. But as the elder Petty aged into his 40s, he knew his time on the race track was winding down; and as he looked for a long-term successor, it was only fitting that son Richard follow in his footsteps. For racing was not just the Petty’s pastime — it had become their livelihood.
After a handful of starts in both Cup and convertibles at the end of the 1950s, Richard would quickly break through on NASCAR’s top level, winning his first race at the Southern State Fairgrounds in Charlotte, NC, in 1960. Little more than a half-mile dirt oval, that old school track was about as far removed as one could get from the asphalt “cookie cutters” you see today. In fact, it was the direct opposite of a track like Daytona International Speedway — the place that would later come to define the career of the man who helped shepherd NASCAR from bullrings and dirt tracks to what would become the cornerstone venue of professional auto racing in North America.
But it was at Daytona, in fact, where Richard was thrust into the spotlight in 1961. In a qualifying race that year, Lee Petty was involved in a devastating crash that involved both he and Johnny Beauchamp — the same driver he narrowly edged to win the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959. Lee emerged alive from the wreckage — but just barely. He had lost a lot of blood; his chest was crushed, and he had a punctured lung, broken leg, and other injuries too numerous to mention. The elder Petty wound up in a coma, and he would spend the next four months in the hospital recovering.
It was then that the torch was passed to Richard, as the fate of Petty Enterprises now rested in the capable hands of he and brother Maurice. Richard would turn the wheel, Maurice the wrenches, and — with a little help from the Chrysler Corporation — a dynasty was quickly in the making.
After finishing runner up for the championship in 1962 and 1963, it would be the following year that witnessed King Richard emerging as the dominant driver in the Cup Series, beginning a reign that would last for the next two decades. Chrysler had debuted the 426 Hemi at Daytona for the ’64 season, and — when coupled with the inherently aerodynamic Plymouth it was shoehorned into — records, along with jaws, fell wide open along pit road. Petty won Daytona by well over a lap that February, and had a second lap on third by the time he hit the checkered flag.
That run began a season unlike any Petty Enterprises had ever had before. Nine wins, a career-high 37 Top 5s, and 43 Top 10s won Richard the title with ease over ’61 champ Ned Jarrett. In fact, his Petty Blue No. 43 Plymouth was so dominant that season — he won almost $40,000 more than anyone else — that NASCAR banned the Hemi engine for 1965 and beyond.
Since Richard was a factory Chrysler driver, he did not compete for the better part of the following season due to NASCAR’s sudden restrictions. Instead, he opted to drag race in a Plymouth Barracuda, showing his talents were more diverse than the short tracks and superspeedways placed around the Southeast. Sadly, this marked one of the darker moments of his racing career, as Petty was involved in an accident at a drag strip in Georgia where a seven-year-old boy was killed.
Returning to the sport in earnest by 1966, it was actually the ’67 season that was the year Petty established records which will never be broken. Just check the stat lines of a performance unmatched: 27 wins — 10 of them coming consecutively — to go along with 5,537 laps led. Naturally, Petty won his second championship that season, handing Plymouth a manufacturer’s title in the process. It was this display of unparalleled dominance that earned him the nickname “The King.”
About this same time, the rest of the country had been seeing glimpses of NASCAR racing on ABC’s Wide World of Sports; and it was truly a sight to see, these machines that appeared to be little more than gutted street cars with big tires and no mufflers. These were race-prepared vehicles that were just as fabricated and engineered as today’s Cup fleet — only they just happened to carry a few more stock parts and pieces to go along for the ride. And as the visibility and the interest of the sport increased, Richard Petty became the face of national stock car racing. When the cameras flashed on, he was always seen with a mile-wide grin, speaking articulately, and willing to sign anyone’s autograph — creating one so intricate, it is impossible to reproduce, yet elegant enough to show a fan that their support did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
So influential was the King during this era that a car was created by Plymouth just for him. In 1968, the boxy Plymouth Roadrunner was out to lunch on the big tracks, a brick compared to the Fords and Mercurys of the day. So for the ’69 season, Petty wanted to bring something other than a knife to the 200 mph gunfights taking place at Daytona and a new, larger 2.66-mile track in central Alabama called Talladega. Dodge had a Charger 500 and a new Daytona waiting in the wings — but Plymouth had nothing to give its star. As a result, Petty asked the company for a Dodge ride; but he was rebuked, told only that he was a Plymouth man, and that he would be driving nothing but a Plymouth once again.
Or so they thought.
Much to their surprise, Petty informed Plymouth that for 1969, he was now piloting none other than a Ford Torino No. 43. Turning his back on the manufacturer that he’d been with from the start, Petty then put his money where his mouth is; he won ten times, and finished second in the championship standings to David Pearson. The message was tough, but it was also clear: Plymouth needed Petty, but not vice versa.
Desperate to get him back in the mix, Plymouth developed their version of the Dodge Daytona called the Superbird — a car that eventually sold over 1,900 units to the general public. The vehicle had a slightly different nose and rear window section than the Charger Daytona… but it was every bit as competitive. Petty’s teammate, Pete Hamilton, won at Talladega in 1970 driving the new machine, and Petty won 18 races himself, with the majority of the wins — ironically enough — coming on short tracks.
Already armed with well over 100 wins by that point in his career, Petty would continue this top level of performance through the 1970s and early ’80s, surviving a couple of fuel crises, a mutton-chop fad, a fu-man-chu, an ulcer, a broken neck and a nasty wreck at Darlington that nearly saw him crushed under his own car — an incident which served as a catalyst for what’s now known as the side window net.
And in the process, he continued to set records with ease. Petty won his seventh and final championship in 1979 over an up-and-comer named Darrell Waltrip, and took his seventh Daytona 500 in ’81 over longtime rival Bobby Allison. Petty’s 200th win would also occur at the track where his legend began in earnest 20 years earlier. On July 4, 1984, in a race to the yellow against Cale Yarborough — and with President Ronald Reagan on hand — Petty edged Yarborough by no more than a few inches to take the victory. It was one of NASCAR’s defining moments, and the exclamation point on a career that began on a small dirt track nearly a quarter century prior.
But it would also be one of the last highlights of Petty’s on-track Cup experience. As the ’80s wore on, he would run competitively only sporadically; the times and technology had long since passed his once proud organization. By the end of the decade, it wasn’t the wins The King was after; he was simply hoping to make the field and finish within the Top 20. But even that mountain became too tough to climb; and for the first time in his career, Petty would fail to qualify for a race at the 1989 Pontiac Excitement 400 in Richmond.
To add insult to injury, the man was driving a Pontiac.
In 1992, Petty finally launched his farewell tour. The late Bill France, Jr. introduced him as, “The gentleman representing the kingdom of Randleman, NC,” before turning the PA system over to The King to give the command to start engines for his final Daytona 500. He was swept up in a wreck that year near the halfway point of the race — ruining his chances for a win or a strong finish — but still came home 16th, with his familiar STP-emblazoned hood crinkled and secured only by bungee cords.
I remember that day well, as I attended the race with my father. He had never been to Daytona before and wanted to be there for Petty’s final start and, possibly, the best chance he had at winning No. 201. But that wasn’t my first encounter with NASCAR’s most accomplished driver, as we had the opportunity to meet him a few years earlier in 1987 at the now-defunct Hill’s Department Store chain grand opening. I was all of 10 years old at the time and he was bigger than life, but every bit as friendly, cordial, and welcoming as I had thought he would be — gathered from the three races a year we were able to watch, of course, as we did not have cable in my hometown when I was growing up.
Petty’s charm, of course, has also always been emblazoned within the fashion choices that make him the most recognizable face in the NASCAR garage. It’s a wardrobe no one else would even dare to copy: the Charlie Horse cowboy hat, the toothy grin, the boots, the big belt buckle festooned with “7-Time Cup Champion / 7-Time Daytona 500 Winner,” and those black wraparound sunglasses that would make Dirty Harry envious. And to top it all off, he had the best-looking autograph that flowed with the ease and fluidity — and genuine warmth and appreciation — that has been extended to fans for the last 50 years.
But even with all of his accomplishments and accolades, Richard Petty remains a humble man who is as grateful to the fans as they are of him. Sure, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. may have won seven championships and Jeff Gordon may still get there, but The King’s number of wins will never be equaled, what with the schedule and driver longevity being what it is today. To call him a just a driver would be belittling … but to call him a saint would probably just embarrass the man. So, I think I’ll just refer to him by that of what we all have grown to know him as: The King.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Not only is the King the most gracious and fan-friendly driver in history, he’s also done a tremendous job of instilling those same qualities in his son.
I remember seeing Kyle Petty entering the garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway one race weekend. He was trailed by a female reporter who was obviously doing a story that involved following Kyle around with a camera. When a young boy stopped and asked Kyle for his autograph, and the reporter told the boy that he would have to wait. Kyle turned to her and said “No, Ma’am… YOU will have to wait.” and signed the boys hat. Kyle obviously learned from his father that without the fans, there would be no Nascar.
I think Richard would be as proud of his accomplishments as a father as he is of his racing legacy.