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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Farewell to the King … Pettys don't fit in NASCAR's new era

From the time the first “Strictly Stock” race was held in 1949, there has been one thing consistent in the sport -- the Pettys.

First, there was Lee … then it was King Richard … Kyle came next … then it was Adam’s turn, but fate took him from this Earth early.

Even in recent years -- with the Petty Enterprises team struggling and bringing in a financial partner to help them survive -- the team was still out there every week at the track, carrying on the decades-old tradition of a Petty team fielding a car in stock car racing.

But the rumblings this week are that a new era is about to begin, and that Petty Enterprises may merge with Gillett Evernham Motorsports. While the word Petty may still appear in the official team if this merger happens, it will be largely symbolic. Gillett will likely be calling the shots, as he’s the big dog in this deal, and Richard would fade off into the sunset. Kyle, should he still want to race, would have to find part-time work elsewhere … all the seats are taken. (As a side note, if this deal happens you may see Bobby Labonte heading over to the #41 Earnhardt Ganassi car, and A.J. Allmendinger staying at GEM)

The Pettys remind me of the Detroit automakers in a way … they were once giants, but are now struggling to survive and need help. Just as Chrysler may get swallowed up and disappear if they have to merge with GM to survive, the Pettys would essentially disappear with this merger.

Financially, the merger makes sense for the Pettys, who are leagues behind the front-runners on the track each week. But they have to know it means the official end of the era where they mattered. Kyle will go on to do great things with his charity work, and Richard will always have the respect of the fans, but NASCAR has passed the Pettys by. No one can take away their history and contributions to the sport, but it’s a new era and they just don’t fit in.

As a side note, when looking back on the Strictly Stock standings from 1949, I saw that Buck Baker competed in one race and took home a grand total of $50 (about $400 adjusted for inflation). I’m not even sure you could buy a single race tire nowadays for that much money.

Wood Brothers scaling back
In the same week, another historically great team, the Wood Brothers, has announced it will run only 12 races next week, with Bill Elliott competing. They have lost sponsors and can’t afford the full year anymore, which is just as well because they’ve been a backmarker for several years now. They might as well do what they did so often in past decades -- concentrate on certain tracks and get better results when they race.

Shocker! Jr. is most popular driver
I’m surprised they even bother to allow voting on this one. I haven’t seen the numbers, but I’m willing to be the young man from Kannapolis had more votes than 2nd to 5th place combined. Jr. Nation will give him this award until he retires, and even them they’ll try to vote for him.

Now if only he would start winning more, maybe they will invite to the snoozefest banquet next year (FYI: I still haven’t watched this year‘s banquet, but from what I’ve heard I’ll probably be able to fast-forward through about 95 percent of it and watch it in 15 minutes when I get around to it.)

Thailand two-step
In an odd coincidence, both Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards had end-of-the-year trips scheduled to Thailand, where there has been political unrest this week. Maybe it says something about their personalities that Edwards still is going on his trip, where he will bike across the country with his girlfriend. But Johnson apparently has canceled his trip and will pick some other exotic destination to travel to with his wife. After seeing Edwards pull that kamikaze move earlier this year and purposely wreck his car, I’m not surprised that he’s less concerned about a few protesters at the airport.


Anonymous Todd Crane said...

You can have the new NA$CAR era. I'll just remember the good old days, and spend my Sunday afternoons doing something else. Somehow I don't think I'm alone here. I've been a fan for over 40 years.( matter o fact if I were to go to next year's Daytona 500 it would mark my 40th anniversary of doing the PA for the 500. But I'm probably going to Texas to view the Buddy Holly Museum.

December 7, 2008 at 9:48 AM 
Anonymous Tim Villani said...

It is a sad day for NASCAR fans to see the last vestiges of our beloved sport put aside by the foolishness of the people now running the sport. Every move that has been made by Brian France and the rest of the people in charge has put us on this collision course of something none of us can no longer recognize or enjoy.
New cars that are now many times more expensive because of their need to maintain close tolerances, no more innovation, and the inability of new people being able to enter the sport has killed any chance of anybody upseting the new apple cart.
Because of the way it is now being run, the racing will continue to be bad, and fan interest will continue to fall.
Thank You NASCAR

December 28, 2008 at 10:05 AM 

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