News & Media


Six Pack of Pop: Petty been around too long to worry

July 10, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

The King likes what he sees from his drivers; isn't concerned about the future

Hall of Famer Richard Petty, owner of a record 200 race wins and seven championships as a driver and now co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, answers this week's six questions.

1. Along with the driver of your famed No. 43 race car, Aric Almirola, you unveiled a pretty unique racing-tire bank recently at Kentucky Speedway. Can you talk about the plans to fill the bank at upcoming races in Indianapolis and Michigan in a partnership with sponsor Eckrich and Operation Homefront that is designed to aid military families in need?

Petty: Richard Petty Motorsports has always backed the military. This is for military families who get lost in the shuffle. This is for the guys and gals who serve, but also for their families. This is more for the families, in fact, than just for the enlisted people.

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Since coming into the sport in 1951, Richard Petty has set standards for excellence on and off the track. David Caraviello says at 75, Petty is still ... The King.

I'm always looking for a place to throw my spare change, and this racing-tire bank looks just about perfect. Really, this is all about supporting military families through our partnership with Eckrich and Operation Homefront. We've always been a family and a race team that wants to give back to the people who sacrifice so much for us. Hopefully the fans will keep filling up this bank as a way to say thanks to all our military families.

2. Could you talk about the performance of your two RPM race teams thus far this season (RPM also fields the No. 9 Ford driven by Marcos Ambrose)?

Petty: Maybe it's not happening as fast as the drivers or the partners want, but the big deal is that we're moving forward. We got a lot of races left. ... We're trying to get ready for what's going to happen next year and we're improving all the time.

3. How much of a difference has it made adding veteran Mike Ford to your organization as Almirola's crew chief?

Petty: He was really missing it [after getting replaced as Denny Hamlin's crew chief at Joe Gibbs racing after last season]. We showed improvement immediately after he came on [in early May], and it wasn't just with one car. It was throughout our entire shop. The first thing you know, the crew chief of the other car [Todd Parrott] felt like he really had to get out and get going just to keep up. So it raised the bar for both of our race teams.

He was looking for an opportunity with a growing team that he could help get to the front. It would have made no sense for him, after all he had done at Joe Gibbs Racing and everywhere else he's been, to go back to a start-and-park operation or something like that. So it's been a good fit for both parties.

4. Anything new to add to the rumors that RPM, which currently runs Fords and is aligned with Roush Fenway Racing, may return to the Dodge manufacturer fold beginning next season?

Petty: Basically we're in a wait-and-see mode to see where Dodge winds up, where Ford winds up, where Toyota winds up. Chevrolet is already pretty well solid on all of their stuff. But for the rest of it, you might as well wait and see what's out there -- to see if we stay where we're at or we go try something else.

5. Aren't you concerned about how it will shake out?

Petty: I'm not concerned a bit about it. If you look at where we were two years ago, three years ago, this is nothing. This is easy.

Definitely you sit on the pole three out of five races [as Almirola and Ambrose did recently], it gets everybody's attention. ... I think everybody, whether they're fans or sponsors or manufacturers, they can see the improvements that we've made team-wise. That helps.

6. So you got the ball rolling with the aforementioned racing-tire bank by putting in some spare change at Kentucky, right?

Petty: I put in 43 cents. Aric [Almirola] is making all the real money these days.

But seriously, at this point, it's all about putting money in other people's pockets. I'm just happy we can do something to help these military families out, and I know our fans feel the same way. I hope we can fill the bank at the next couple of races where our car will be sponsored by Eckrich.