By admin | December 7, 2008
By Jayson D. Henry
I just read Rich’s column on the demise of Petty Enterprises and Wood Brothers Racing. As a person with a bit younger perspective than he has I am also saddened by the downfall of these two legendary teams.
Rich pointed out in his column that he was born in 1967. I am 26 and never saw Richard Petty race in person. However, the first race I attended was the 2001 Food City 500 which was won by Elliott Sadler driving the Wood Brothers #21 car. He finished just ahead of John Andretti who was driving the Petty Enterprises #43 car.
That would be the last time these two teams would finish 1-2.
Unfortunately, the truth is that Petty Enterprises and Wood Brothers Racing just didn’t change with the times. Popular or not, multi car teams in big Charlotte area garages are the business model of the day. With the expense of racing being what it is, the necessity of having several cars in one organization allows for the most efficient use of man and machine power.
Both of these teams stuck with the model that had worked for them in the 1960s and 1970s. Although they may have been doing what they were doing for the right reasons, the results were destined to lead to the point where they are now. Both organizations may have wanted to remain as small, family owned operations which would allow them to be loyal to those who had helped them get to the top.
Until just recently, Petty Enterprise still ran their team out of the same family garage in Level Cross, North Carolina they had used for decades. Literally and figuratively far from the huge, technological marvels that sit just a stone’s throw from the Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the shop had a homey feel, but unfortunately, not a competitive feel.
They must have been doing something right because former Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte decided to join their team and to remain even when he has been rumored to have other offers. Although it seems that Labonte will now have to move on as Petty appears ready to close its doors.
Reality finally forced the Pettys to move closer to the Charlotte area last year. Perhaps the move was too little too late.
Wood Brothers Racing also employed the same type model with their business. Choosing to remain in Stuart, Virginia rather than take up residence in the Charlotte area, they watched the NASCAR world go racing by while they sat still. They too moved to Charlotte but only after it was too late.
If the end is near for these two storied organizations it is a sad day indeed. Whoever is to blame, whether it be NASCAR, the newer mega teams, the sponsors, the teams themselves or a combination of all, the fact is that these teams failed to change with the times. And the sad result is they are closer to being a part of racing’s history than they are its present and future.
Jayson D. Henry is a guest blogger for RacingWithRich.com.
For coverage of other sports go to Jayson’s website, NeverEnoughSports.com.
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