By admin | June 16, 2008
By Richard Allen
Things must have gotten pretty bad at Petty Enterprises. As a matter of fact, there must have been a feeling of complete desperation at the home of one of NASCARâ€™s original teams.
As has been documented in many places, last week Petty Enterprises brought in the investment firm Boston Ventures to help infuse capital into their race team. Typically, these type of firms come into a languishing business, do a few things to improve the business in the short term then attempt to sell the business for a quick profit.
There is no way for anyone other than the powers that be at Boston Ventures to know if that is indeed their intention here or not but it does leave NASCARâ€™s most famous family treading on dangerous ground.
To further show the amount of desperation that must have been lurking within the walls of the Petty shop, an organization that for years has refused to place a small beer company sticker on their cars, the company is now under the leadership of a person who was once the Chief Operating Officer of Playboy Enterprises.
On track, Petty Enterprises has not been a major force for some time. John Andretti provided the teamâ€™s last win all the way back in 1999 at Martinsville. Teams such as Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing have left the Pettys far behind.
In recent years the organization has been able to keep sponsorship and gained a certain degree of credibility by signing 2000 Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte. However, that sponsorship and Labonteâ€™s driving have not been enough to return Petty to the ranks of consistent race win and championship contenders.
Signs of not only a lack of performance but a lack of unity appeared a few weeks ago at the Texas Motor Speedway. Kyle Petty was replaced in the #45 car by young Chad McCumbee. At first it was reported that Kyle had agreed to the change in hopes of improving the #45â€™s performance. However, the third generation Petty soon offered comments that proved quite the contrary point of view. And perhaps worse, it seemed that no one within the organization wanted to take the responsibility of calling for the change.
There are three possible explanations for the fall of Petty Enterprises. First, the Pettys simply were not able to keep up with the changes that have occurred in the sport over the last 20 years. Perhaps, the team had been too successful in the past to allow it to be successful in the present, meaning they had become too set in their ways.
One piece of evidence to point to this would be the fact that not until this year did the team finally move from its Level Cross, North Carolina shop to a new facility closer to the hub of NASCAR in the Charlotte area.
Another possible explanation for Pettyâ€™s fall could be that the team has not had the financial resources to compete with the more powerful teams. The previously mentioned teams operate 3, 4 and 5 car teams with each being heavily financed which allows those teams to equip their shops with all the latest and most technical machinery as well as the employees to man such machinery.
Petty Enterprises has stuck to the two car team philosophy for too long. The other teams have many more cars conducting many more tests and applying more manpower to solve any problem that might arise.
The Petty Enterprises downfall almost certainly has to be credited to one of those two previously mentioned scenarios. If it is not one of those, the only other possibility would be that the Pettys have simply lost interest in competing and winning. This, for an organization that has won 10 championships and over 200 races in its storied history, seems highly unlikely.
Whatever the case, the dropping of Petty Enterprises from the ranks of NASCARâ€™s top teams is a sad story. Unfortunately, it is a sad story because for the most part the Pettys have allowed it to happen.
In recent years the Pettys have been gone from victory lane, and now are gone from Level Cross, but hopefully not gone from racing altogether.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
Topics: Articles |