Thursday, December 11, 2008

Split could open new doors for driver and team

It would be really easy to second-guess Bobby Labonte right now. But I'll pass.

Earlier this year, after General Mills announced it would leave Petty Enterprises and its No. 43 Dodges after the 2008 season to go to Richard Childress Racing, there was widespread speculation that Labonte would go along with the sponsor and drive the fourth RCR car.

First, we don't know for sure that was even a possibility. Second, I find it very difficult to criticize Labonte for being willing to stay with a team where he'd been for three seasons hoping that would help the team find a new sponsor. Third, the sale of majority ownership to Boston Ventures in June offered the hope of a bright future for the Petty team.

In hindsight, it's easy to say that Labonte might have found himself in a better position today had he not remained committed to being a part of what he and everyone at the team hoped would be a renaissance for the Petty team.

It'd also be easy to lash out at Boston Ventures for not having better fortune in taking on the challenge of moving the team forward. But did anyone really accurately forecast the economic meltdown that's having such a profound impact on NASCAR and the rest of our lives right now?

A lot of companies, those in racing included, are doing everything they can just to survive right now.

It seems reasonable to assume that the new contract Labonte signed this year included some provisions that could have complicated any deal to allow the Petty team to merge with another team so it could go on. With Labonte and the team agreeing to do away with their deal, both the driver and the team now figure to be in more flexible positions to continue working on what might come next.

I don't have much doubt that Bobby Labonte will be in a Cup car in 2009.

I certainly hope that the No 43 car will be on the track next year and still somehow maintain a connection to Richard Petty and his family's racing legacy.

It has been since 1971 that there has been a race in what's now the Cup series that the Petty family hasn't at least entered one car. There has been a Petty-owned car in 2,083 of 2,210 races held in the sport's history -- including Lee Petty's entry in the first Strictly Stock race back in 1949 in Charlotte.


Anonymous said...

Great move for Bobby Labonte, yes he might be a little wet from staying on the sinking ship of Petty Enterprises a little to long but now he can get to a good team and hopefully back to victory Lane. Great writing David!


Anonymous said...

Obviously this leads us in only one plausible direction. Petty Enterprises has had a great run, but now it's time to pass the torch and sit back and remember the good ole days. I think it may be better to close the doors now than to continue on the downward spiral they have been on for the last few years. If Kyle has moved on, I think we all need to move on.

Anonymous said...

anon@2:53 has good points

I'd rather see a sport's icon leave the "game" when they are still at the top. But even when they stay too long, the public will never forget them.

I think Richard and his group worry too much about his legacy. And he has stayed too long. I think that sometimes it is embarrasing to see what has happened.

One of the greatest examples of icons who will always be loved and not forgotten is Arnold Palmer. He probably stayed a bit too long, but anyway, he is still revered and loved by golfers as well as the general public. I see him occasionally around our town (I don't know him personally), and people just love him. Any event he appears in, sells out. He is still more popular than many currently at the top of the PGA tour.

So I say to Richard, don't worry about personal legacy, do good works for NASCAR, just like Arnie has done for golf, and all will be fine.

Mike Hutton said...

As A.J. Foyt said at Indy in May 1993 - "It's a hard decision, but there comes a time..."

The King is the King and always will be, but it is time. Don't ruin the legacy.

Anonymous said...

Wow...Wouldn't it be great if Richard could break away from Boston Ventures, move back to Level Cross, get STP to pony up some big bucks, hire a talented young driver, and turn the Cup world on its ear next season....Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus....I know that's the only way that could happen, but it don't cost nothin' to dream...who knows a lot of single car teams, if there are any left, might make races next season seeing as they're only predicting 36 or so Cup teams....

Anonymous said...

That 43 team outperformed a number of teams that had better funding and "more successful" ownership groups.

Granted, they didn't win but only those select few in the Top 15 have that opportunity now. You kind of wonder if there are really only about 20 cars that should be allowed to compete.

Nascar should mandate that all teams outside the Top 25 surrender their sponsors to Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs, Childress, Penske and Tony Stewarts team. Then they could consolidate every bit of that money in their hands and have 25 car fields.

Wait a minute, 25 car fields....Where have we seen that before? USAC...CART? Hmmm, I see a trend.

Anonymous said...

Racing is a performance business. If a team is not performing, why should corporations fund them?

As far as I'm concerned, a true champion would never be satisfied just putting a car in the field and not winning year in and year out. That's in any field of sport, be it baseball, football, basketball, etc.

Petty can still be an asset to NASCAR, but not as an owner. HE DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO RUN A RACE TEAM!! Petty thinks he can get a bye because of his name. Sorry, Mr. Petty, we have a generation of the public who will not be convinced to buy a product from someone whom they have never seen win.

I think the same is going on for Dale Jr and DEI. You just cannot trade on you name. Jr has lost a sponsor (allegedly) and cannot find full funding for his Nationwide car. And people zero in on the fact that he is the most popular driver. But so what? Board rooms are saying, we want performance.

Teresa thought she could just drag out Dale Sr's name and pots of money would follow. Well, that teams has done nothing but lose value. Let's see how the new partnership goes.

Anonymous said...

I think that one of the things that Rick Hendricks has said over and over again is that his success has to do with people--the right person for the right job and chemistry. Racing is a team.

Unfortunately, Petty did not have that and did not give that to Bobby. Part of the success of the 48 team was that the core group has been together for all 7 years.

Petty had constant changes. I don't know why Bobby said they had done eveything. He had something like 6 crew chiefs in 3 seasons! Why? If Robbie Loomis was such a wiz, was he the one who hired and fired all these people? Or was it Richard? Or was it the working conditions?

How about Kyle? He raced when he wanted to. If he wanted to go to TNT, or whatever, he went. They just got a fill-in driver. This went on for years. Talk about nepotism. "I'm the boss's son, so I can do whatever I want."

I think racing was just a way to make a good living--not win races.

Anonymous said...

Oops! No s in Hendick.

Anonymous said...

There are winners in all kinds of things - winners on the track and winners in life. The King will always be a winner - he just doesn't win on the track any more.

Anonymous said...

I laughed when ABC started off the coverage of each of the 10 Chase races with King Richard commenting on what it took to master that week's particular track.

Are you kidding me?

He's never driven on some of them, and hasn't driven in today's car on ANY of them. You wouldn't call a plumber if you needed electrical work done, would you?

Anonymous said...

Apparently if you want to know what's going on about Petty Enterprises and/or GEM, ask a plumber or an electrician since the so-called NASCAR media does not have the time or the sources or the interest to try to find out.

Anonymous said...

Should the media take Richard Petty hostage, bind him, stick razors under his nails?

Richard in NOT READY TO TALK. Leave him alone. Stop looking in his trash, talking to his family, looking for disgrntled ex-employees, stop looking in his keywhole!!!

Let him make the announcement when he's good and ready!!! Please.

Anonymous said...

It's a nightmare thinking that the media is chasing Richard Petty like they are the crooked governor of Illinios! Or how about when the media chases celeberties at airports?

It doesn't matter what the public wants to know, people have a right to privacy. Give Richard that right. I bet he is sick and tired of being hounded.