News & Media

Six Pack: Checking in with The King himself

November 27, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Petty thinks comparing drivers across eras is unfair to all involved

Richard Petty, a.k.a. The King, current co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports and winner of a record 200 races and seven championships in NASCAR's top series, answers this week's six questions.

1. What keeps you coming back to the race track?

Petty: It's a lifestyle if you really get down to it. I've been around racing since I was 11 years old. It's sort of like a farmer living in the country all the time and then moving to the city. What are you gonna do?

2. When Penske Racing joins the Ford family next year, what kind of impact is that going to have on your organization?

"It's a lifestyle if you really get down to it. I've been around racing since I was 11 years old."


Petty: When you put competition within the team -- I'm going to say within the Ford team -- it does have an impact. So when Penske comes, then the other Ford teams are going to be looking at him and trying to beat him. He's going to try to beat all the Ford teams before they beat anybody else, so this makes for some inner-company competition. I think that will wake up a lot of us.

3. Will it help that they might bring some stuff that transfers to you guys?

Petty (laughing): No, because anything that Penske's got, Penske's gonna keep. That's not detrimental. That's just the way they operate.

4. What do you think of Brad Keselowski, the new Sprint Cup champion?

Petty: He does some stuff with us with the Paralyzed Veterans of America. He's good about that. He's come on board. You looked at him (at the beginning of) last year and you said, 'What is Penske doing? What is he thinking?' But he bops out this year and all the stars get lined up, so you never know.

You watched him in (the) Nationwide (Series) and from time to time he seemed pretty good, and the next time he was busy running over somebody. Between him and the crew chief (Paul Wolfe) and the team together, they've matured a little bit since then. They've gotten to be steady and you know what to expect every week now and he steps up. He drives the fool out of the thing.

5. How did drivers in your day handle incidents like the one in the next-to-last Sprint Cup race in Phoenix, where Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon got into it -- or at least their pit crews did?

Petty: The way we handled it was the same as what happened in the garage area at Phoenix. You jumped in there and beat on somebody's head and got it squared away and forgot about a telephone. What's apologizing over a telephone? That's a zero, man. Anybody can think that up. There's no emotion, no feel ... there's nothing there. Some of you can do anything talking on that deal where you're not talking with people eye-to-eye, but to me, that's a waste of time.

6. Jimmie Johnson said recently he wants to win eight championships so he can be considered the best driver of all time. If he does that, will he become the greatest driver of all time?

Petty: That would make him the greatest of this era. There's no way you can compare what (David) Pearson and (Bobby) Allison have done against what he's doing now because it's a different ballgame. The rules are different, but the big deal is the competition is so much different and the drivers are different.

In other words, if Jimmie Johnson had come along 30 or 40 years ago, would he have made it or wouldn't he have made it? How would he have run against Pearson or Allison or (Cale) Yarborough? I've got my suspicions, but you can't really tell because they're different race cars and different eras. You can't compare Babe Ruth with any of the guys going today (in baseball). They've got different balls, different bats, different pitchers. ... I'm from the old school, so I always felt like that was the best crowd.