CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After a 39-year hiatus, the No. 42 is back under the Petty fold once again.
The newly-formed Petty GMS Motorsports team conjoins Richard Petty Motorsports’ storied history with GMS Racing’s investment into two chartered, full-time NASCAR Cup Series teams — the No. 42 Chevrolet of Ty Dillon and the No. 43 Chevrolet driven by Erik Jones. The investment was made by Maury Gallagher, owner of GMS Racing. The organization will be led by team president Mike Beam.
Dillon’s new drive, which was originally supposed to be the No. 94 before GMS Racing’s investment with Petty, revives a tradition that dates back to Lee Petty’s first NASCAR Cup Series start with the No. 42 in 1949 at Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsboro, North Carolina.
Since then, Petty earned all but one of his 54 premier series victories with the No. 42. Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty also spent time in the No. 42 aside from his usual No. 43, earning a pair of race wins during his stint.
“When I first started Cup racing, we had the 42 and the 43,” Petty said during Tuesday’s unveiling at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “It’s sort of like the whole wheel has come back together. To me and our family, it means a whole lot.”
Richard’s son, Kyle Petty, drove No. 42 under the Petty Enterprises umbrella in 69 races from 1980-82. Aside from the No. 42 coming back, it’s also a homecoming for Beam with the Petty family after serving as crew chief for Kyle during those years.
Kyle switched over to the No. 7 for the family-owned team and later to the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. From 1990-96, Kyle returned to No. 42, this time for former team owner Felix Sebates. Kyle earned six total victories there.
Kyle indicated the team originally had the No. 44 in mind to join Jones’ No. 43 but ultimately decided to go the historical route.
“It just has so much more history than the 44,” Kyle told NASCAR.com. “(No.) 44 was just another line in the progression. (No.) 45 has a lot of history with us obviously with Adam (Petty, Kyle’s late son). And then to come full circle that Mike (Beam) works there is crazy because when Mike came and worked there (Petty Enterprises) in ’81, I was 20 years old and he was 22 or 23 and it was the blind leading the blind. They just gave us a race car and let us go race there in ’81, ’82 and ’83. Those were good years. It’s pretty cool to see them unveil that 42 car.”
Chip Ganassi Racing was the most recent owner of the No. 42, run by Ross Chastain in 2021 and Kyle Larson from 2014 through March 2020. Other drivers to have run the number full-time for Ganassi since the mid-2000s include Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya. The number was inherited by Trackhouse Racing after Justin Marks’ purchase of Ganassi’s NASCAR operation, which put it on the market for 2022 after Trackhouse elected to go with the No. 1 for Chastain’s new ride.
Beam, who has served as president of GMS Racing since December 2014, was more than willing to take the opportunity to run the No. 42 given his own history with the Petty group.
“Once we got the 42, it was a no-brainer for me,” Beam said. “I owe Kyle, Richard, Maurice (Petty) and the whole Petty family so much. My whole family does.”
For owner Gallagher, the marketing advantages of the number were another reason for the decision.
“If you just think pure business perspective — sponsors, awareness, the Petty brand — it’s a really natural place to go with what we were trying to do here and announce to the Cup world,” Gallagher said.
Even NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman, atop the pit box for Richard and the No. 43 Petty Enterprises team during 188 of his 200 career premier series victories and seven titles, couldn’t hold back the joy the number coming back home sparked.
“Yeah, I’ve seen that number before,” Inman said with a smile, noting Hall of Famer Lee Petty’s success with No. 42. “The 42 goes back way before the 43 to me, but it’s been a long ride for both of them, and it’s good that it’s come back.”