By admin | January 20, 2009
By Richard Allen
It was announced on Monday that the company once known as Gillett- Evernham Motorsports will be renamed Richard Petty Motorsports. This announcement comes on the heels of GEMâ€™s merger with, or absorption of, Petty Enterprises earlier in the off season.
What one has to wonder is just what role will Petty play with this team? Evidence suggests â€˜The Kingâ€™sâ€™ role will be very limited.
Sure, the company carries his name. One of the cars will wear the familiar number 43. However, a deeper look into the running of this team shows it is Pettyâ€™s team in name only.
Aside from the #43 car, one look at the rest of the team shows Petty will have little involvement. For example, the cars fielded by Petty Enterprises did not display the sticker of the brewing company which sponsored the pole award. The sticker was approximately two inches by six inches.
Now, the Petty name will be attached to a car that not only displays a small beer sticker but is fully sponsored by the Budweiser brand of beer. A few years ago Petty would have no doubt turned down lucrative sponsorship from such a company as a matter of principle. Pettyâ€™s principles have probably not changed but his ability to steer clear of such sponsorship has.
The down turning economy and the current state of NASCAR have left this legendary figure with no choice if he is to remain in the sport that has been such a major part of his life.
Another piece of evidence to show that Petty will have little control is a look at this companyâ€™s previous owner and founder. Ray Evernham started the company and helped usher Dodge back to the sport after a long hiatus.
In August of 2007, Evernham announced he was selling a majority share of his team to sports franchise owner George Gillett. Less than two years later, Evernham has essentially been kicked to the curb by the new owners.
Evernham has been one of the most successful crew chiefs in NASCAR history but now he is serving as the owner and operator of a dirt track in North Carolina. Richard Petty Motorsportsâ€™ true ownership has shown they are not looking for advice, but rather, control.
No matter how long he has been in the sport nor how much success he has had in the past, Richard Petty is not going to be making decisions for this organization. The fact that the times forced him into a merger with a beer sponsored team shows the weakness he has coming into this arrangement. Gillettâ€™s style of taking control in a very hands on way, as has already been demonstrated, shows that he is not looking for a co-owner, no matter who it may be.
Richard Petty is still involved in NASCAR. Unfortunately, the sad truth for this writer who was named after him is, he is a king in name only.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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