JANUARY 9, 2009
Petty name saved in NASCAR, team gone
Petty Enterprises has closed its doors and laid off its staff but the Petty name will live on in NASCAR thanks to a deal that has been struck between Boston Ventures, the owners of Petty Holdings, Gillett Evernham Motorsport (GEM) and Richard Petty himself. The details of the deal are not yet finalised but the new organisation will be majority owned by GEM, although Petty and Ray Evernham, the founder of GEM, will both retain shareholdings. The team does not yet have a name but it seems that the venture capitalists involved recognise the value of the Petty brandname and may call the team Richard Petty Motorsports, to maintain the connection with the racer they still call "The King", who won 200 races and seven NASCAR titles during his career. The level of Petty's involvement in the team, beyond the name is another matter, but The King says he will be at all the races and the hugely-successful Richard Petty Driving Experience operation remains independent of the merger and is presumably a nice little earner for Petty and Boston Ventures. The team has confirmed that it will run three cars at all events with a fourth at eight races. A handful of Petty managers will join the new team, notably Robbie Loomis, Dale Inman and Brian Moffitt, but the teams will be based at GEM premises. The driver line-up looks like being Kasey Kahne, Reed Sorenson and Elliott Sadler, although the last-named recently embarked on legal action when it looked like he might lose his drive to AJ Allmendinger.
The importance of the Petty name in NASCAR cannot be overstated, and the only real comparison in F1 is that it is akin to Ferrari.