The King, Richard Petty, posted 200 wins on the Cup series, the most all time. He won seven championships, tied for Dale Earnhardt for the most all time. Here at Dover, Petty won the inaugural race here in 1969 and is tied with Bobby Allison for...
The King, Richard Petty, posted 200 wins on the Cup series, the most all time. He won seven championships, tied for Dale Earnhardt for the most all time. Here at Dover, Petty won the inaugural race here in 1969 and is tied with Bobby Allison for the most wins at Dover with seven. He posted 16 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes at the Monster Mile. A member of the first NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction class, Petty is serving as Grand Marshal of Sunday's Autism Speaks 400 and took time to reflect on his Hall of Fame career.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WAVING THE FLAG AND BEING GRAND MARSHAL AND YOUR HALL OF FAME INDUCTION? "It is an honor either way. To throw the flag is one kind of deal, as long as I keep it in my hand I am okay. Being in the Hall of Fame is something that when you really go back and look at all the people, from promoters to drivers to mechanics, that have gotten NASCAR along this far and you are just one of the thousands that make it happen and you are chosen out of all those people is a heck of an honor. I am sure there were a lot of people that were more important to the overall deal with putting up money and taking gambles to make NASCAR what it is today. A lot of these drivers that are doing pretty well today don't realize what some of the guys went through to get it to this point. Bill France took a huge gamble and got people to follow along behind him. You had guys like Junior Johnson, Curtis Turner and Lee Petty that sacrificed a lot way back. To be chosen out of that crowd is just a heck of an honor."
ANOTHER THING YOU ARE WELL KNOWN FOR IS THE WAY YOU CONTINUE TO KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE FANS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHERE THAT STARTED AND HOW YOU TALK TO CURRENT DAY DRIVERS ABOUT THE FANS? "The deal is that for the first 15 or 20 years of NASCAR there were no sponsors. The fans were the ones sponsoring because they bought the tickets and when the race was over you would go pick up what money you had coming to you depending where you finished. Back then the fans were who you had to play to because they were the ones that were supporting it. It was a no brainer to say we had to keep them on our side. We had to keep them buying tickets. I came through with the Allison's and the Pearson's and that crowd who did the same thing. They realized that without the fans there wouldn't be any racing. Without the fans there wouldn't be a Richard Petty from the stock car part of it."
WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT YOUR CAREER AND WHAT THE SPORT HAS BECOME TODAY, HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN TO TODAYS DRIVERS WHAT IS WAS LIKE TO RUN SO MANY MORE RACES AND IN STRANGER PLACES? "Yeah, that is one thing that I think about when I go into the Hall of Fame museum. On the third floor there is a great explanation of all that. A lot of us old timers look back and hope that the guys that are doing it now appreciate what the guys did who laid the groundwork. It makes you feel good that you can look back and see how much our sport has grown. It grew from the first year we ran in 1949, when my dad was racing; there were only eight races. It was so new that nobody would gamble on committing themselves to it. After those eight races they started to expand it. Every year they ran it got a little bit bigger and a little bit better. It took so many people to make that happen. You just hope that the guys now appreciate the guys that laid the groundwork and set the foundation."
A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK YOUR DRAMATIC DAYTON WIN IN 1979 PUT THE SPORT ON THE MAP NATIONALLY. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT AND WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER FROM THAT RACE? "Okay, that is when they had a little fight on the back stretch and we lucked out and won the race. It was on national TV and there were only like three different stations (CBS, ABC and NBC) and NBC had the race on and it ended up being very exciting. What you have to remember is all the groundwork that was laid before that in regard to Daytona. Daytona kept getting a little bit bigger and better each year. One of the major parts of our growth was when we consolidated and quit running 50 races a year and started running 30 instead. When we did that they started running bigger tracks and having bigger crowds. In 1972 I got the first major sponsor with FTP. It took all of that to get CBS interested in having a flag-to-flag race. To the general public and most of the nation, that was a big step. Some of the other steps were baby steps, but that was a giant step. We had a captive audience and if you had a TV on you had to watch the race. It would up that race was an exciting one and it let the rest of the world know that we had a good sport down here in the south."
WITH ALL THE ATTENTION THE HALL OF FAME IS GETTING, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO COMMUNICATE ABOUT THAT? "I just want them to tune in. I think once you get people tuned in and they pay attention then you get people trapped. I went up to New York the other day and was on "Fox and Friends" and I was on another show like that. You don't get that kind of exposure usually for this sport. It is a whole different clientele than we are used to. When you go into that kind of deal it makes you feel good about what you did and makes me feel good that I can maybe somehow still help the sport grow."
OVER THE YEARS, ARE THERE ANY MECHANICS THAT STAND OUT TO YOU? "Yeah, if you look back and are a racer you know of Smokey Yunick, Dale Inman, Maurice Petty or Herb Nabb. You have to know the history though. That was one of the deals when we got to the Hall of Fame. It isn't just drivers that make this happen. Naturally they took the two France's because they got it started, but I hope in the future they look at people other than drivers. I hope they look at people that made the drivers go. I hope they look at people that sacrificed for the drivers. I hope that with future Hall of Fame classes we will have owners or mechanics ^a get a good cross-section of it. We are different than football or baseball. You have your first baseman or quarterback and they stand-alone. No driver stands alone. It is a team effort so when you see Richard Petty in the Hall of Fame, Richard Petty just happened to be the one out front. I had all those people behind me helping me go and I hope in the future we will be able to put team members into the Hall."
IN OTHER SPORTS THERE SEEM TO BE A TON OF OFF THE FIELD ISSUES, YET IN NASCAR WE DON'T SEEM TO HAVE THAT SORT OF THING. HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THAT? "We live in a different atmosphere. Our people come from a different atmosphere than other major sports. We are more family oriented. Most of the drivers are married and have kids. If they don't have kids they have a couple of dogs. When you look back at these athletes that get into trouble it is because they are out at two or three in the morning at a bar. Our guys are pretty family oriented. The mainstay of our deal is still that we are a family oriented sport. I think also that our guys are so busy. They are busy during the week and on the weekend. They have sponsor responsibilities and family responsibilities. They run in a different circle. I guess them cats are just a little different than what we are."
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Autism Speaks 400 Practice, Page 4 March 15, 2010 Dover International Speedway
WHEN THEY ANNOUNCED THE FIRST HALL OF FAME CLASS YOU WERE INITIALLY RELUCTANT TO FEEL AS THOUGH YOU DESERVE TO BE A PART OF THAT CLASS. YESTERDAY RICHARD CHILDRESS SAID THEY GOT THE RIGHT FIVE GUYS. AS IT GETS CLOSE TO INDUCTION, DO YOU FEEL NOW AS THOUGH YOU BELONG THERE? "That is a good question. I feel like there were people more important in getting NASCAR started than Richard Petty. I am a big believer in Lee Petty from the standpoint that he ran the very first race. He was the first driver that said he could make a living driving a car and owning a car. People like that laid the groundwork for everything we have going on now. Junior Johnson is a good one. He definitely deserves it because he transcended the sport. He contributed not only from the driver's standpoint but also from an owner's standpoint and getting RJR interested in sponsoring the whole circuit. My part of it was just the driving part. I know we won a bunch of races, but that is just part of the overall show. When you look at people to go in the Hall of Fame, records are fine, but how much else did they contribute is important to me."
CAN YOU CHARACTERIZE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH KYLE THE LAST FEW YEARS WITH HIM BEING PHASED OUT OF THE RACING SIDE AND WHAT IT MEAN TO YOU FOR HIM TO INDUCT YOU AT THE HALL? "Well it was one of those kind of deals where sponsorship deals were going away. We got a partner in our business and they didn't have room for Kyle. When you have a partner you have to sort of go along with the guy that is helping with the money part. Kyle then had the opportunity to do his TV deals and still tries to help take care of the Victory Junction camp. It wasn't that he didn't want to drive it was more that we worked him out of it and he worked out of it. We weren't really meaning to do it; it was just a trend of time. From that standpoint it is nice to see him on TV, his momma gets to see him on TV all the time, which is fun. I don't think there is anybody that could have inducted me into the Hall of Fame better than Kyle because he has been there through thick and thing, good and bad. He knows more about me than anybody, except my wife."
THE RICHARD PETTY MUSEUM IS ALMOST A HALL OF FAME ITSELF, BUT AS YOU WENT THROUGH THE HALL OF FAME WAS THERE ANYTHING IN THERE THAT REALLY BROUGHT BACK A SPECIAL MEMORY FOR YOU? "Yeah, there were a lot of things on the third floor where all the history is at. There was this ticket that Big Bill had send to my brother. He had got caught fighting in 1967 or 68 and it cost him $250. Things like that, the small stuff just really brings back memories. All of a sudden I am remembering where the fight was at and who won and the whole deal. Those are the things that bring back memories to me or Junior or Pearson or Allison when we go through. Hopefully, the guys and the new fans can appreciate all of the things that went on way back. The first couple floors are the more modern stuff, but the third floor with all the history is really interesting. There are so many things that bring memories back. I have lived 72 years and 60-something of them was around a race car. The computer in my head isn't big enough to keep them all fresh."
-source: ford racing