The "King" Richard Petty goes 1-on-1 with NASCAR.com to talk about his biggest achievements at NASCAR's highest level.
LOS ANGELES -- The bright orange hues of the setting sun lingered over the California coastline last Thursday evening, casting an appropriate illumination on the Hollywood hilltops in the distance and onto one of Los Angeles’ most distinctive treasures in the forefront, the Petersen Automotive Museum. Sitting on famous Wilshire Boulevard, the building's modern chrome-look design is head turning even in a city known for high profile. And inside it is one of the most impressive automotive collections in the world -- the Louvre for car lovers. On this night at this appropriate location, NASCAR’s "King" Richard Petty was honored with the Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to auto racing and for raising the profile of the American automobile. Equally important, it was a wonderful chance to celebrate Petty's upcoming 80th birthday on July 2 with a large cake and an eager banquet room of singers. The evening's host and museum’s founding chairman Bruce Meyer welcomed the large crowd, revealing with a smile, "It's the first time having a King here." Almost 300 people were on hand to honor Petty , and there was no mistaking the eclectic attendance -- NASCAR's most treasured, old-school hero being feted by Southern California's coolest and hippest car lovers. Good vibes, as they say out here. " Richard Petty's an icon in our sport, the Frances, the people that built the sport," said retired racer Donnie Allison, an invited guest of Petty's for the evening. " Richard Petty is without a doubt the most noted name in all of racing. It doesn't make a difference who you know or who you talk to. "Bobby (Allison) and I were on an airplane coming out here and sitting next to a guy who asked us what we did. I said that we raced and he said, I don't know anything about racing but I know who Richard Petty is. "What does that say?" Before the formal sit-down dinner, seven-time NASCAR champion Petty joined four-time champ Jeff Gordon to film an interview for FOX Sports. With the famous "Hollywood" sign landmark in the distance, Petty smiled at Gordon and they discussed his family's "redneck engineering." "There was no book, everything was new," Petty told Gordon. "We were so dedicated to working on those cars, we didn't know if it was night or day." Dressed in a black suit and wearing one of his trademark black, feathered cowboy hats and black boots, Petty settled in for the casual time with Gordon and they talked about everything from receiving this unique honor to Petty's favorite winning hardware. "I've got them everywhere," 15-time Martinsville winner Petty said, smiling about the track's famous grandfather clock trophy. With seven NASCAR titles and 200 wins, Petty could not be more revered, and seeing him celebrated in this unique setting seemed not only genuinely appreciated by him, but also a true gift to the crowd. "I'm pretty sure he's signed more autographs than any person in the history of the world," road racing champion Tommy Kendall said, smiling. "Seriously, he's been famous for a long, long time." "It's easy to think of 200 wins and say he was good, but you have to think about that. Everyone had the same limitations and the same challenges of knowledge and understanding and the Pettys somehow raised the bar. "And he raised it in other areas, too, in terms of fan engagement and even something as simple as why his autograph is so legible. It's probably not an accident. People spend their time and money to see him and he wants to give them something." On this night, Petty gave plenty -- his time, his smile, his approval and his sincere gratitude. "I'm just getting old," Petty joked before the program began. "But," he added of the recognition, "Petersen has been in publishing of all kinds of racing magazines. Being they cover all types of racing, to be selected in something like this is really a big thing. I guess it winds up showing we had a lot of good people working for us to be able to put us in this position. It wasn't a one-man show. "What can you do by yourself? "I've accomplished nothing by myself. With the crowd around me we've accomplished a lot. I just happen to be the guy out front. I'm not pulling them, they are pushing me." Always one to share credit and appreciate competition, Petty invited some of his closest friends and even some of his former fiercest competitors to join him this evening. NASCAR executives such as Vice Chairman Mike Helton, Executive Vice President & Chief Global Sales & Marketing Officer Steve Phelps and Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jill Gregory were there to support and enjoy. Fellow NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Rusty Wallace were there, too, along with the great Donnie Allison, NASCAR team owner Rob Kauffman, Kendall and Petty's son Kyle, who played guitar on stage to end the evening. The musical finale came after the tributes, however. And there were -- appropriately -- hours' worth of those. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and his sister, International Speedway Corporation's CEO Lesa France Kennedy, joined a lineup that included Roger Penske, Mario Andretti, Darryl Gywnn and others who sent video messages of accolade and homage. Newly inducted fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer, team owner Rick Hendrick, fondly recalled in his message that Petty's famous signature was "the first autograph I ever got." Former United States Presidents George H. Bush and George W. Bush sent letters to be read on stage. The elder Bush wrote to Petty , "You are a legend. What may not be as well-known is your life's mission to help. ... You are an inspiration about what is best about our great country." Henry Ford, the great, great, great-grandson of Ford Motor Company's founder, delivered a tribute in person as did other major corporate executives. Petty finally took the stage briefly to acknowledge the kindness and many honors, and as you might expect, humbly and briefly reminded everyone, "It's a tribute to not only Richard Petty , but to our sport." At the live auction after dinner, Petty not surprisingly offered a big assist. Two people were in a lively bidding war for one of Petty's famous cowboy hats. When you're the King, your hat is a crown. And after the bidding concluded, Petty took off the very hat he was wearing, walked to the stage and told the audience he would give it to the other bidder -- in effect doubling the money raised for the Petty Family Foundation and Petersen Automotive Museum. And making two grown men very happy. The spontaneous gesture was an apt display of both the high regard Petty has earned and his unending willingness to give back to his many fans. Hats off to the King, indeed.
Richard Petty discusses the importance of signing many autographs throughout his career as a tribute to say thanks to his fans.
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Jimmie Johnson , who won a record-tying seventh NASCAR championship this past season, has been voted the winner of the 2016 Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award presented by the National Motorsports Press Association. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports , was named on 62 percent of the ballots cast for the award of the NMPA membership. Others receiving votes were Carl Edwards ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart ( Stewart-Haas Racing ) and Joey Logano ( Team Penske ). Richard Petty , Dale Earnhardt and Johnson are the only NASCAR drivers to win seven titles in what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . The announcement was made during the NMPA's annual Convention and Awards Dinner held in Concord, North Carolina. It marks the seventh time Johnson, 41, has received the Driver of the Year honor. He also won the award in 2004, '06, '07, '09, '10, and '13. Johnson won five races in 2016, including the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway that clinched his seventh championship. He ended the year with 11 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 36 races. The award is named in honor of Petty , NASCAR's win leader in its top series with 200 victories. It has been presented annually by the NMPA since 1969. Twenty-three different drivers have won the award since its inception. Other awards: Veteran motorsports journalist Al Pearce was named the 2016 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Pocono Spirit Award. Pearce raised more than $13,000 through the auction of a racing helmet bearing the signatures of the 20 living World Driving Champions as well as those of Phil Hill and Sir Jack Brabham prior their passing. Proceeds from the project, which took nearly four years to complete, went to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation. ... Veteran public relations representative Dave Ferroni was named the 2016 recipient of the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award. Ferroni has been involved in various forms of auto racing for more than 30 years. His company, DMF Communications, currently handles public relations for Furniture Row Racing and driver Martin Truex Jr . in NASCAR's premier series. ... ESPN.com motorsports writer Bob Pockrass was named the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Joe Littlejohn Award for 2016. The award is named after the former track owner from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and is presented annually by the NMPA in recognition for outstanding service to the organization. Pockrass recently completed his eighth year as secretary treasurer for the NMPA. Richard Petty Driver of the Year Determined by vote of the membership, the Richard Petty Driver of the Year award has been presented annually since 1969 to recognize the season's most outstanding driver. It is named in honor of the seven-time NASCAR premier series champion: 2016, Jimmie Johnson ; 2015, Kyle Busch ; 2014, Kevin Harvick ; 2013, Jimmie Johnson ; 2012, Brad Keselowski ; 2011, Tony Stewart ; 2010, Jimmie Johnson ; 2009, Jimmie Johnson ; 2008, Carl Edwards ; 2007, Jimmie Johnson ; 2006, Jimmie Johnson ; 2005, Tony Stewart ; 2004, Jimmie Johnson ; 2003, Ryan Newman ; 2002, Tony Stewart ; 2001, Kevin Harvick ; 2000, Bobby Labonte ; 1999, Dale Jarrett; 1998, Jeff Gordon ; 1997, Dale Jarrett; 1996, Terry Labonte ; 1995, Jeff Gordon ; 1994, Dale Earnhardt; 1993, Rusty Wallace; 1992, Davey Allison; 1991, Harry Gant; 1990, Dale Earnhardt; 1989, Mark Martin; 1988, Rusty Wallace; 1987, Dale Earnhardt; 1986, Tim Richmond and Dale Earnhardt; 1985, Bill Elliott ; 1984, Terry Labonte ; 1983, Bobby Allison; 1982, Darrell Waltrip; 1981, Darrell Waltrip; 1980 Dale Earnhardt; 1979 Cale Yarborough; 1978 Cale Yarborough; 1977, Cale Yarborough; 1976, Darrell Waltrip; 1975, Richard Petty ; 1974, Richard Petty ; 1973, David Pearson; 1972, Bobby Allison; 1971, Bobby Allison; 1970, Bobby Isaac; 1969, LeeRoy Yarbrough.
Richard Petty Motorsports announced Friday that it will field one car next season in NASCAR's premier series with hopes of returning to a two-car stable in 2018. The Richard Petty -owned operation plans to focus its efforts on its flagship No. 43 Ford driven by Aric Almirola next year. Brian Moffitt, the organization's CEO, indicated in a statement Friday that the team plans to lease one of its two charters it has in NASCAR's top division. "At the conclusion of the 2016 season, we evaluated how to best improve our on-track product. We feel that it's in the best interest of our partners and for Richard Petty Motorsports to focus our resources on the No. 43 Ford Fusion and Aric in 2017. A concentrated effort on one team will position us for improvement while giving us adequate time to re-establish our two-car team in 2018. For the interim, we will lease one of our two charters." The realignment temporarily shutters the No. 44 Ford team most recently driven by Brian Scott , who retired from full-time competition at season's end. Almirola has been with the Petty organization since 2012. He scored his first premier series victory in July 2014 at Daytona International Speedway , landing the No. 43 team its first win since 1999 and punching the ticket for RPM's only appearance in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. The Mooresville, North Carolina-based team began producing its own chassis before last season, then endured a significant performance dropoff in 2016. Almirola tumbled from 17th to 26th in the series' final standings, and Scott managed only a 31st-place result overall in his only season with the team. Almirola and Scott posted just one top-10 finish each in the 36-race campaign. Friday's announcement follows two competition changes for RPM in the second half of last season. On Aug. 31, the organization replaced Sammy Johns, its director of operations, with Philippe Lopez and Scott McDougall to oversee competition duties. The organization also made a crew chief change for the No. 43 team on Sept. 13, replacing Trent Owens with Drew Blickensderfer for the final 10 races of the season. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Richard Petty Motorsports announces the driver of the 43 for the upcoming Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Get a one-of-a-kind tour of the Petty Museum with The King, Richard Petty only on NASCAR.com.
Richard Petty and Aric Almirola weigh in on the decision to put him back in the No. 43 for the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Relive the 1981 Daytona 500 won by The King, Richard Petty .
One of Richard Petty Motorsports ' two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will not only have a new driver and crew chief combination for 2016, but it will also feature a change in car number. Officials with the two-team organization announced Monday that it will change its No. 9 team to the No. 44 for the 2016 season. The team features former XFINITY Series driver Brian Scott and crew chief Chris Heroy, both new to the organization. "After the 2015 season, we had an opportunity to make some changes and get the No. 44 back. We felt that it was good timing. We really wanted to get that number back in the Petty family where it really belongs," Richard Petty said Monday. "Brian (Scott) is coming on board, and he really hasn't had a number in the Sprint Cup Series. Everything has just come together to really bring back a Petty tradition. "For us, the numbers are more than just a number, you could say. They really represent our family history, our legacy and everyone who has worked for us or raced for us. We take a lot of pride in that and are glad to have the 44 back home." The RPM lineup also includes driver Aric Almirola in the group's iconic No. 43 Ford. The Petty organization first used the No. 44 in 1954 for a single race with driver Bob Welborn. It wasn't used in a full-time capacity by the organization until '93, following the retirement of seven-time series champion Richard Petty . Petty's No. 43 was renumbered 44 for a single season with driver Rick Wilson behind the wheel. That team returned to its original number, 43, the following year. The last full season a Petty entry featured the No. 44 was 2009 with driver AJ Allmendinger . The group began using the No. 9 as well after merging with Gillett Evernham Motorsports in '09. Entries bearing the No. 44 have won 13 times in NASCAR's premier series, most recently by Terry Labonte (1986) when the NASCAR Hall of Fame driver was competing for car owner Billy Hagan. Cars featuring the No. 9 have won 53 times, including the final four times by RPM drivers Kasey Kahne (2009) and Marcos Ambrose ('11, '12).