By admin | December 7, 2008
By Richard Allen
Petty Enterprises appears to be on the brink of elimination. If rumors are to be believed, the long time NASCAR team is about to merge with, or rather be consumed by, Gillett-Evernham Motorsports.
For many long time NASCAR fans who feel as though the sport they once loved has turned away from them in recent years, this may be the last straw.
Many of these long time patrons, followers of the sports since the 1970s or longer, came to be fans because of the Petty organization. Richard Petty’s magnetism and winning ways drew many fans to NASCAR in the day when “The King” was dominating the short tracks and super speedways of the South and the nation.
And is so often the case, many fans were drawn to the sport to root against the sport’s top star. There were some who no doubt came to their first race to see someone beat the one who won the most.
A modern day comparison would be the “Tiger Woods Effect” in golf. Some come to cheer him and some come to watch in hopes that he will lose.
Many of those who wanted to see someone beat Petty often found themselves cheering the car fielded by Wood Brothers Racing. David Pearson, among others, drove for the team which fielded cars out of their Stuart, Virginia shop.
The #21 of the Wood Brothers and the #43 of Petty Enterprises have most likely finished 1-2 more than any other two cars in NASCAR history.
Like their old nemesis the Pettys, Wood Brothers Racing is in danger of slipping into history. The team announced last week they would cut their schedule to only 12 races in 2009. In the time of their greatest glory the Woods ran a limited schedule on purpose. This move has been forced by a lack of funding and the rising cost of competing over the length of the 36 race NASCAR schedule.
The end result of the demise of these two teams could be the hastening of the departure for many long time fans. The growing discontent with the direction the sport has taken in the last decade or so is costing NASCAR its older generation of fans.
Cars and tracks that are too similar. Drivers who are often chosen for their media appeal rather than their ability behind the wheel and too many pieces and parts being handed out by the sanctioning body have caused the gear heads who once lived and died with the sport to lose interest.
The Pettys and the Woods were the last remaining remnant of the form of racing older fans once fell in love with. Now, with these teams disappearing into the sunset, NASCAR may find the sun going down on an entire generation of once loyal supporters.
The demise of these two teams will be a particularly disappointing thing for a certain NASCAR writer who was born in 1967, the year in which “The King” won 27 races, and was named after Petty by a dad who had David Pearson as a favorite driver. My naming and the friendly rivalry it created between my dad and I is one of the great memories of my young life.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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