Petty Enterprises refocused on championship By Shawn A. Akers RANDLEMAN, N.C. (Jan. 22, 1999) It had been 13 years since Petty Enterprises had visited Victory Lane, when Bobby Hamilton put the famed No. 43 STP Pontiac back in that familiar...

Petty Enterprises refocused on championship By Shawn A. Akers

RANDLEMAN, N.C. (Jan. 22, 1999) It had been 13 years since Petty Enterprises had visited Victory Lane, when Bobby Hamilton put the famed No. 43 STP Pontiac back in that familiar place late in 1996 at Phoenix. Since Richard Petty retired in the early 1990s, the team had to learn to win all over again. It's now been 20 years since Petty Enterprises claimed its last NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship, when Petty earned the last of his seven titles in 1979. It's a learning process all over again for the organization, but some team members say that championship feeling has returned to Petty Enterprises, as has the desire to recapture the glory it once enjoyed. Key personnel changes and the big move of the No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac team to the Petty Enterprises compound in Randleman, N.C., have brought about a new air of confidence. And drivers John Andretti and Kyle Petty have noticed, and they say they're ready for what they hope will be their best years on the track in quite some time in 1999. "I'm probably more excited and confident about this year just because of people's attitude around the shop," said Kyle Petty, driver of the No. 44 Pontiac, who slipped to 30th in the standings last season. "It's because it's more of a team deal. It's not the 43 team or the 44 team. You'll notice when our guys come to the race track this year they'll have STP on their shirt or Hot Wheels on their shirt, but everybody wears the tag that says Petty Enterprises. "So, we look at it like a football team. There's offense and defense, but it's still the same team. The way we're set up and the way we've tried to organize it through the winter -- and the people that we've brought on board like Doug Hewitt (crew chief of the No. 44 team) and some of those guys -- it's going to greatly expand the capabilities that we have at Petty Enterprises, and it will help us go out and run more competitively." The No. 44 crew has completely moved its operation north from Concord, N.C., to the join the No. 43 shop. Petty said it's a bit crowded in the shop trying to put together two NASCAR Winston Cup Series efforts, but the move to consolidate everything under one roof has been a big boost for his team. "It's made a huge difference," Petty said. "It's made a huge difference in morale and the way all the guys at the shop look at it, they're excited about the coming year. They're not just going through the motions. They're doing all the little things. I think that's what it takes to move us up a notch." Andretti finished 11th in the standings in 1998 in the No. 43 STP Pontiac. He jokingly says Richard Petty has been hiring people "almost daily," but then that proves to Andretti that "The King" is refocused on getting back on top of the racing world. "I think we've got more sponsorship than the team has ever had, and we've got more people than we've ever had," Andretti said. "I say that like I'm a Petty, but in a lot of ways, I feel that way. It's becoming a big organization where they're saying they want to accomplish these goals, and now they're taking measures to try and get there. "They're making the energy and putting the money into all of those things. We can't do everything, but we're certainly looking at and doing everything within the powers of the team to do it. They're not saving anything. We're going at it real hard, and I think they always have, but with Kyle coming back in-house, we've got a real possibility of stepping up our game plan. That doesn't mean we're not going to fall backwards, but I think it gives us a better chance to go forward." Both teams will soon move into a brand new facility in Randleman, N.C., one that Richard Petty said will make the financial expenses involved in moving the No. 44 team north worthwhile. "Right now we feel really good about it," Richard Petty said. "Right now there's a little bit of confusion because you've got all the people wandering around and stuff, but we feel like that's going to be a big plus for us in a sense. "John has been with us for a full year now, and he understands our way of doing things and we understand what he likes. With Kyle coming up here now, he'll be able to help John and John will be able to help him. We feel like we're going to come out of the deal real well this year. Right now, we feel like we're in the best shape we've been in for a long, long time as far as the whole team goes. All we have to do is clean up our act a little bit from last year and we'll be on our way." On their way to perhaps yet another NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship for Petty Enterprises.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Bobby Hamilton , Kyle Petty , Richard Petty