Much has happened in Richard Petty's world in the past nine months.
He merged his family-owned Petty Enterprises with capital asset company Boston Ventures last June to form Petty Holdings. January brought another merger, this time with George Gillett, owner of Gillett Evernham Motorsports as well as the Montreal Canadiens and the English Premier League's Liverpool soccer team.
Re-named Richard Petty Motorsports, the organisation fields cars for Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson and AJ Allmendinger…
Six months ago, could you have imagined that you'd be where you are today?
We went with Boston Ventures, and everything was gung-ho and all that, and then the economy - we had no more than signed the papers - and the economy went south. These are investment people, and they invest X amount, and they say, “OK, what's our next choice?”
We went out then and started talking around and wound up with Gillett Motorsports. When we did that, we were able to join some of our people and our things together with them. They were looking to add another car to try to make that part grow. We got together with George Gillett and said, “We'll do our part, and you do your part, and we'll call this whole thing Richard Petty Motorsports.” We got off to a good start (at Daytona). Now we've got to continue our deal.
Are things as upbeat as they seem?
I feel like there's a lot of enthusiasm there, because the guys working there get to work on four cars instead of two and a half. Our people are out beating on the bushes, trying to make things work. We'll have to wait and see what happens.
George Gillett seems to have a healthy respect for the history and traditions of NASCAR racing. Is that one reason you get along?
That really works good. I talked to him before we went and done our other investment group (Boston Ventures). He said, “Look, this (Petty Enterprises) is an established operation, the Petty name. Same with the hockey team and the soccer team. I can't mess with that part. What can I do to enhance those particular brands?” That's what he's for with Richard Petty Motorsports.
I've heard you say that you prefer not to have the #43 retired. Why is that?
I look at it basically from kind of a greedy standpoint. As long as that #43's out there, then Richard Petty's out there. In other words, that's my signature deal just because of the 30 or 40 years with that number. If they take the #43 off the racetrack, I'm going to have to do something else to get my name recognition out there. It's something I feel good about.
Do you feel it's appropriate for Dale Earnhardt's #3 to be retired?
Basically, it is retired because it's going to be years and years and years before anybody would even take a chance on doing that (fielding the #3 car). Then you'd get all the three people mad at you if you use that number. It's been basically taken off the pavement. When I retired, I talked to Bill (France) Jr. about retiring the number, and he said, “I wouldn't do it, but that's you out there in front of these people.” It was helping NASCAR, but it was helping me, too.
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News
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