By admin | April 1, 2008
Petty and Woods part of racingâ€™s past, not its future
By Richard Allen
Petty Enterprises and Wood Brothers Racing have probably done more to make NASCAR into the sport it is today than Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing or Joe Gibbs Racing ever will. Unfortunately, the two storied teams are seemingly moving closer and closer to extinction with each passing weekend.
These two legendary teams have been linked throughout the history of NASCAR. Petty Enterprises was formed as a family business in the rural North Carolina countryside in 1949. Wood Brothers Racing was formed as a family business in the Virginia countryside in 1950.
Both teams have won a multitude of races.
The Wood Brothers have found victory lane 98 times with such legendary drivers as David Pearson, AJ Foyt, Curtis Turner and Dale Jarrett, just to name a few.
Petty Enterprises has won 10 championship and their race wins number in the hundreds with Lee and Richard Petty taking the vast majority of those trophies.
The two teams have been competitors with each other and for a time in the 1980s were partnered, in a sense, when Kyle Petty drove for the Woods.
However, the present and the future of these two teams seem to be every bit as linked as their pasts.
In 2008, the Wood Brothers have qualified for only two of the first six events. The best finish the team has managed has been a 26th place in the Auto Club 500 in California. The team even missed the prestigious Daytona 500, a race they have won four times.
Having finished outside the top 35 in points in 2007, the Woods were forced to make races on speed this season and have failed to grab one of the few open spots on four occasions. Unfortunately, the hole they have been trying to dig out of has only gotten deeper with each missed race.
For Petty Enterprises the story is beginning to sound a lot like that of their former rivalâ€™s. The car #45 driven by Kyle Petty, and now Chad McCumbee, has fallen outside the Top 35 and missed the race in Martinsville this past Sunday. Now, that team also finds itself trying to dig out of an ever deepening hole.
The glimmer of hope for Petty Enterprises has been the fact that they had solid sponsorship and 2000 Sprint Cup Champion Bobby Labonte in the #43 car. Now, it appears as though those are going away.
In a recent announcement the General Mills company, makers of Cheerios, has given notice that they will be joining Richard Childress Racing in the formation of a new team for 2009. And while nothing has been said officially, speculation is that Labonte will be going to that new team along with his sponsor.
Perhaps both of these teams have been victimized by their own success, steadfastly clinging to locations where they had built so many winning cars. For years after other teams had moved to the Charlotte, North Carolina area the Woods continued to labor in tiny Stuart, Virginia while the Petty team held fast to its Level Cross, North Carolina shop. The two were far removed from the hub of NASCAR technology and the pool of available talent to fill positions within their teams. Although both have now moved, it may have been too little, too late.
Perhaps these teams have not kept up with the latest trends as far engineering and technology are concerned.
Perhaps they have been too loyal, if that can be considered a fault, to the people and ways that have brought them so much success.
Unfortunately, for whatever the reasons, long time followers of NASCAR face the real possibility that two teams who have been so much a part of this sport in its past may not have a place in its future.
If that is indeed the case NASCAR and its fans will be the worse for it.
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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