Golden year for Petty Enterprises By Shawn A. Akers RANDLEMAN, N.C. (April 7, 1999) The legendary Petty family is celebrating its 50th year in NASCAR. Race teams have come and gone in NASCAR's 51 years. But there is only one team that...
Golden year for Petty Enterprises By Shawn A. Akers
RANDLEMAN, N.C. (April 7, 1999) The legendary Petty family is celebrating its 50th year in NASCAR. Race teams have come and gone in NASCAR's 51 years. But there is only one team that has stood the test of time as the cornerstone of the sport. Petty Enterprises has certainly had its highs and has survived its lows, and now is building is way back up to the level of success of which its foundation was laid a half-century ago. While NASCAR celebrated its 50th anniversary in a big way last season, Petty Enterprises will celebrate its golden anniversary in NASCAR this year. Wednesday, PE unveiled some new additions to its race shop and its theme for the 1999 NASCAR season -- Celebrating the Past, Geared for the Future.
From its humble beginnings in 1949 -- when Lee Petty formed Lee Petty Engineering to compete in the NASCAR Grand National Division -- to the conglomerate that Petty Enterprises has become today, the organization has remained a steady force in NASCAR racing.
It has grown from a small, obscure shop in a small town tucked away in northern North Carolina to a team that now fields two NASCAR Winston Cup, one NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division and one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team in a shop of nearly 70,000 square feet.
"It all started with Lee in 1949, and this place has seen a lot of changes," said Richard Petty, the seven-time NASCAR Grand National and Winston Cup champion. "We've gone through several manufacturers -- beginning with Buick, Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler, Ford, Chrysler again and now we're in the GM business -- and in the beginning it was done with no sponsorship. You'd make enough money at one race to go on to the next.
"But the biggest thing about this whole thing is that it's been a family situation all these years. It's gone through Lee (Richard's father), myself, Kyle and now Adam is continuing the tradition. We used to race for the present, now we're looking way down the road into the future with Adam and beyond.
"And we couldn't have done it by ourselves. We've had 41 different drivers come through here, and we've had a lot of good people come through here and are here now that have helped make us what we are today. We plan to honor all of those people later this year. We've been extremely fortunate in this business."
UPS AND DOWNS
Petty Enterprises has had its ups 268 victories in 50 years, including 54 by Lee and 198 by Richard but it has had its down years as well. Richard left the organization to drive for Curb Motorsports in the mid-1980s, when he notched his 200th career win, and all the while brother Maurice did anything to keep Petty Enterprises on the NASCAR map.
The organization survived, and Richard made his way back to Petty Enterprises on a mission to rebuild what was once the model of NASCAR success.
"We were the Hendricks, the Roushs and the Yates, what everybody looked to as a measuring stick in the sport back then," said Kyle Petty, who drove for Petty Enterprises from 1979 to 1984 and returned in 1997 to drive the No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac.
"But we fell behind. People look at our numbers and say, 'Wow, that was a phenomenal place.' Well, yeah, it was a phenomenal place. I think we fell away from that. Now, we're trying to get caught back up and get ahead again. We've got the past and the tradition to build on, but we've got the future to look to."
Petty Enterprises just recently added 20,000 square feet to its existing 50,000-square-foot race shop after moving Kyle Petty's team up to Randleman from Concord, N.C., over the winter. That put all four PE teams in the Randleman shop.
One of the biggest testaments to Petty Enterprises' longevity is the sport is the loyalty of one of its sponsors. STP has been with the organization since 1972 and is one of, if not the longest-running sponsor in NASCAR racing.
"We're the only race team that has been around just about as long as NASCAR has," Kyle Petty said. "There were times when I thought that 50-year streak would end at 35 years, but they kept it going. One of the biggest things was my uncle, Maurice, keeping the place alive for two years, and I think that hit home with daddy (Richard). He came back here and made a conscious effort to start all over again and build something.
"Then there's STP, who has been hanging with them for as many years as they have. You don't ever panic because you've got a company like them that hangs in there with you through thick and thin. Now, we've got a tremendous future with Adam and beyond. Like my daddy said, it's a family deal, and we hope to keep this going for a long, long time."
Adam Petty, a rookie in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division, knows there's a heavy burden on him to keep the Petty name going in the sport of stock car racing. But judging from how well he's run early on this season, he's more than up for the challenge.
"It's neat because you're a part of the picture and now it's all coming around," said Adam, driver of the No. 45 Spree Prepaid Foncard Chevrolet. "They're building more shops, more race cars, and they've started a Busch team for me that's one day going to be a Winston Cup team. That's special, and it's special to be a part of this now and into the future."
Source: NASCAR Online