Petty potentially powerful endorser

April 7, 2009
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pettyOpen-wheel racing has long been bigger with the wine-and-cheese crowd than with the blue-collar bunch that made NASCAR the biggest racing circuit in North America. That’s been OK for Formula One, with its world-wide reach and exotic appeal. For the Indy Racing League (and the late Champ Car), that formula has been problematic.

Cross-overs like Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon have done little to take open-wheel to the dirt-under-their-fingernail masses that have fueled NASCAR. But if The King of NASCAR, Richard Petty, becomes truly involved—even enamored with the sport, the mass appeal IRL officials have unsuccessfully sought for more than a decade could be a whole lot closer.

If the seven-time NASCAR series champ is nothing more than a silent partner in an effort to put driver John Andretti on the famed Brickyard this May, his involvement will have little impact. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway rolled out Petty yesterday at a press conference with Andretti and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing officials, who will help Petty field a car.

Already the story is getting major nationwide play, including stories in the Los Angles Times and New York Times. If Petty and his cowboy hat are regulars in the Speedway’s pit lane this May, the spotlight on Indy will become a bit broader, a bit brighter.

Petty, for his part, looks like a guy interested in more than just making the field of 33. John Andretti, 46, has driven stock cars and Indy cars in his career, and has driven for Petty's NASCAR teams in the past. Andretti has been lobbying Petty for some time to join the open-wheel fray. Petty said there was a defining moment not too long ago that swayed him.

“They wanted to paint [the Indy car] red and blue and put a big 43 on it,” Petty said. “They just kept doing things and running at me. I finally said, ‘Yeah, let’s just give it a try and see.’” Click here to see the car's paint scheme.

Petty seemed almost put off when reporters yesterday suggested he is merely putting his name on the team.

“It’s not just a publicity stunt like I told you,” Petty said. “We’re up here, we’re serious with this deal. We’ve got a good car. We’ve got a good crew that’s capable of doing what we need to do with it.”

Petty promises to be here for qualifications and several practice days. He didn’t commit to how much time in May he will spend here, but I’m sure IMS and IRL officials are hoping he’s here plenty. And race day? Will Petty scurry off before the checkered flag drops so he can make it to the start of the NASCAR race the same day? You can bet ABC camera crews will be focused on him plenty.

"If [John Andretti’s] leading, I ain’t leaving, OK?” Petty said. “I come to be involved with our car, Richard Petty Motorsports car. From that standpoint, we're gonna be here as long as John is, OK? Then I think they can probably start the [Coca-Cola] 600 without me.”

Richard Petty, forgoing the start of one of the year’s biggest NASCAR races for an Indy car race … Now that will turn heads. If The King of the Good Ole Boys becomes an IRL fan in the process, that’s a good day in the land of open-wheel.
  • That is a nice looking car. I hope John has success in it and gets Petty to sponsor additional races.
  • This is good deal for the IRL, John Andretti and Richard Petty. Though I am sure all the IRL haters will find something negative to say.
  • This is a pretty big opportunity. Let's hope the folks in the PR/marketing departments at the IRL and IMS will take advantage of this.
  • II'm a fan of IRL and Andretti and hope this works well for him. However, Petty has been a backmarker in Nascar for years so why would this be any different?
  • Hey! He still is and always will be The King ... and a motorsports icon! He still has a solid following in parts of the southeast, a market the IRL is trying to make further inroads in. Long live The King.
  • Petty hires convicted felon Larry Curry as engineer. Memo to King, don't leave any blank checks laying around.
  • I hope this works out for Petty & D-R Racing.
    I'm even more thrilled that I have Window World handle all my new window jobs.
    It the end, if sponsors do not see value in sposering IRL then there won't be IRL.
  • Petty has been a back marker in NASCAR because NASCAR has passed him by. The days of a mid budget team with only one or two cars being able to consistently win are gone. That is why you see so many mega teams 4 and 5 cars in the stable with hundreds of engineers and team members tweeking every ounce out of those cars on dynos and wind tunnels.

    If Petty was coming into the IRL and starting his own team, then I would have the same concerns, but since he is partnering with an existing team, and with a very talented driver who knows Indy as well as anyone, I think they stand a good chance of doing well. Probably not winning, but definitely a top 5 or 10 is very doable. The big problem is they need to be more than a one off team.
  • Meanwhile, the IRL scores a 200k in viewers this year for their opener on ReVersus. down 79% from a year ago.

    Yep. that's PROGRESS! :lol:
  • Not surprising, given that this is Versus' first race. Let's take a look at what the number are at season's end. If the numbers are static throughout the season, that's a problem. But if there's upward movement in those ratings, then we can talk about progress.
  • And how many were there in St. Pete? 200,000 over three days....pretty impressive.
  • Not compared to the 160,000 who were at Texas on one day for the Cup race. But keep grasping at straws....
  • But much better than the attendance at this years c?rt/ccws/owrs season opener. So when is their next race? Can't wait to watch me some push to pass with the stars and the cars.
  • I want to check out some of the fine RE VS irl* races. Can someone with a schedule tell me when the Phoenix, Fontana, Loudon, Atlanta, Charlotte (safer to watch on TV), Michigan, Nashville, Pikes Peak, Disney, Detroit, and Nazareth races will air? I don't want to miss any of the action. Thanks in advance.
  • They are probably at the same place as the NASCAR races like Rockingham, Daytona Beach (on the sand), Birmingham, Dixie, Jacksonville, Columbus, Hayloft, Wilkesboro, Raleigh, and many of the other early NASCAR tracks.

    Have you not been able to find the c?rt/owrs/ccws schedule? I am sure they have an infomercial on some station. Maybe it is squeezed in between a James Bond Marathon and Star Trek the Next Generation on Spike.
  • Maybe it is squeezed in between a James Bond Marathon and Star Trek the Next Generation on Spike.

    Which both get better ratings than the irl* on REVS.
  • I will take your word on the ratings. The question is, where is cart these days? Why exactly is IRL on a sports channel somehow worse than sticking cart on a non sports channel or as an infomercial on a network?

    As I have stated, the IRL got what it wanted which is a very high quality coverage of its series. Now it remains to be seen if they can draw people to it.
  • My point is as an OW fan since before CART was ever formed is that the the major OW series in the US shouldn't be on a second tier cable network, the 500 shouldn't have ratings less than ANY NASCAR race, that a viable feeder system for the actual road to Indy should be in place, that mutliple engine and chassis manufacturers wouldn't be interested if some aspects of control were loosened, and that ratings, attendance and sponsorship would take care of itself if the things that made the 500 and OW racing in general were reestablished. That is competition, speed and technology and innovation.
  • Brett,

    I would like to agree with you, but the series that believes that, F1, is finding that same model difficult at best and near zero interest in the US for it. Part of that may be that when you spend unlimited dollars, you have limited teams that can afford it and only a couple of teams at best that can be competitive. That the most popular series in the US is even more spec than the IRL. That the closest thing to F1 that we have had failed miserablely, multiple times. There are a lot of things we would all like, then there is reality.
  • Opinions vary. I will travel anywhere in North America to see F-1. I wouldn't walk across the street to see the irl in it's current spec. I will take a look at indycars if the new spec is ever released but I feel they need more than one chassis maker. I'm sure you know that F-1 has taken dramtic steps to control costs and F-1 is global in nature. CART was never modeled after F-1 nor did they state they were going to be bigger than F-1, unlike Tony George, who doesn't even have the biggest series at his own track. Sad, really.
  • cart may have never said they did not want to be F1, but they sure acted like it. Races all over the world, losing all but a couple of ovals, turning every weekend into an F1 type street circus. If they did not want to be like F1, they sure ended up close to being it....well without the success.
  • CCWS was the series that had 2 ovals, not CART, If you really believe that CART wasn't the most successful OW series in the US ever for a period of time then you either have IMS* blinders on or are in denial. The irl* has never even approached the level of TV ratings, attendance, sponsorship, and manufacturer involvement that CART had and never will with a dimwit like TG at the helm.
  • cart/ccws/owrs, change the name, change the ownership it is all still the same. The series with the cars and the stars. I agree that cart was the most popular series for a time. But that time passed. As it became increasingly expensive, as they did away with ovals and moved more races overseas, as they went to street parties instead of real racing, they became the least popular US open wheel series as evidenced be their continual bankruptcies.

    I still am curious how you explain that such a wonderful series with the aforementioned stars and cars, all the popular tracks with the exception of Indy, all the money of the big sponsors, tv contracts and rich owners in less than a decade became the desitute racing series? I mean again, if the series business model was so good, and they had everything else going for them, how did they fail? Anyone, class, anyone? The sad thing is all they had to do was not try to kill Indy and none of this would have had to happen. But that is what happens when a group of rich greedy men decide to they want even more and they want total control of everything.
  • I hear from sources that Petty is planning several outing in Indianapolis in May, and should be pretty active. I also hear that there are some higher-ups in NASCAR who are not too happy about all of this.
  • But that is what happens when a group of rich greedy men decide to they want even more and they want total control of everything.

    Sounds like one Anton H. George.

    As I have said many times, those greedy rich men are all in the irl*. And anyone who thinks Penske isn't playing TG's puppet strings are blind or naive. CART never intended to kill Indy, they had no desire. They and CCWS were always the ones offering an olive branch to TG. CART teams sold extra Cosworth's to the irl in 96 or there wouldn't have been enough motors. Even after TG's ridiculous 25/8 stunt.
  • Good news Anthony. I hope Petty gets the IRL bug and puts in a team full time like Penske.


    If cart did not try to destroy the IRL, then why did they schedule their premiere event The US 500, directly opposite the Indy 500 and most of their other races on the same weekend as IRL races? This after TG invited all cart teams to run both series? Again, 25/8 not a whole lot different than 35/8.

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