Better times ahead at Petty Motorsports

by Monte Dutton

Petty Enterprises won 10 championships in what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, a total matched only by modern dynamo Hendrick Motorsports.

But all 10 of the Petty Enterprises titles came with men named Petty behind the wheel. Richard Petty won seven championships, while his father, Lee, won three. Richard Petty’s last championship occurred in 1979.

The team currently known as Richard Petty Motorsports is descended from Petty Enterprises but is no longer wholly owned by the family. The current team, recently reconfigured once again in terms of ownership, has roots in Petty Enterprises (268 Cup victories), Robert Yates Racing (57) and Gillett Evernham Motorsports (15).

Kasey Kahne won twice in 2009 while employed at the team, but he has moved on to Team Red Bull this year and is headed for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. A year ago, Richard Petty Motorsports entered four Fords in each Cup race: Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Elliott Sadler. Menard has since moved to Richard Childress Racing, and Sadler is scheduled to compete in the Camping World Truck Series.

Allmendinger, who finished 19 th in the 2010 Sprint Cup standings, is back, along with newcomer Marcos Ambrose, who was 26 th . The team, no longer associated with previous principal owner George Gillett, will field only two Fords this year.

Petty regained control of the team and managed to acquire new investors. The decline of Gillett’s business empire created hardships, particularly during the latter half of the 2010 season.

Allmendinger hopes, and believes, that smaller will be better.

“This team has had a lot of good resources, but it was just spread too thin,” he said.

“Obviously we went through a rough time at the end of last year that we fought through, and hopefully we are better because of that. We are more funded now, and more money helps.”

Ambrose, the Australian driver previously at JTG/Daugherty Motorsports, said, “We need to win, no doubt about it. We expect to win. … If we can win races and be consistent, then you never know what is possible.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at © 2011 King Features Syndicate

Petty Motorsports, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty (at left, with his son Kyle) has a history of titles in the family. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)