THE SHOP

Performance & Hotrod Business February '14

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PERFORMANCE Through good times and bad, Richard Petty has continued to be an ambassador for racing while managing to maintain his competitive drive. heard the rest of the story, which greatly helped make the phone conversation interesting. "We want Petty Enterprises to put both the Plymouth and the Dodge on the track. You'll be the exclusive Chrysler racing team." Buddy Baker was contracted to run the Dodge, which was painted white while Richard's Plymouth remained his trademark Petty Blue. The Petty Dodge went on to win the Darlington event plus netted a dozen top-five finishes, including a second place finish at the Daytona 500. Richard in the Plymouth had a banner year himself by winning 21 races (including the Daytona 500) and 38 top-five finishes, plus the Grand National Cup Points Championship. Teaming with STP Next up was the era of STP sponsorship. "In November 1971, this guy walked into our pit area and introduced himself. It was Andy Granatelli, the president of STP. I didn't think much about it. Then he called one day and asked us to come to Chicago. We stopped by to see him on the way to Riverside, and by the time we arrived at the road course, we had a deal," Petty recalled. The deal was for $250,000 that first year and that first race at Riverside saw the Petty Plymouth with huge STP logos boldly plastered on its rear quarter panels. Like a perfect story to impress the new people on board, Richard won that California event, starting off the new spon42 n Performance & Hotrod Business PHBFEB.indd 42 n sorship in grand fashion. By the next race (the Daytona 500), a special paint scheme was designed to showcase both the Petty Blue and STP Red colors, and that combination of hues became the most famous combination of colors in NASCAR history. The sponsorship lasted 21 years in all. A movie "The Richard Petty Story" came out in November 1972, and while it was not about to win any Academy Award nominations, it helped promote both the Petty name and stock car racing in general. Richard Petty played himself in the 83-minute film. In 1975, Petty won 13 times out of 30 races and earned his sixth championship as a result of 21 top-five finishes. A terrible pit accident in 1975 claimed the life of Richard's 20-year-old brother-inlaw, Randy Owens, who was reaching to open up a water valve on a high-pressure water tank in the pits that was faulty and exploded, killing him instantly. Kyle Petty was standing right next to Owens, who was like a brother to him, and the tragedy was a dark cloud over the entire team and family. And for Richard himself, there was no shortage of injuries over the years including broken necks, broken arms, broken hands, broken ankles and broken shoulders. It was a situation where injuries just came with the job of driving a NASCAR race car. "I broke my ribs so many times I couldn't even count, probably had a concussion every other weekend. You made it to the next race and made it work." Bleeding ulcers came as well. During the end of the 1978 racing season, Richard went into the hospital for surgery to deal with his continual condition with ulcers, and when they opened him up, the doctors ended up removing some 40-percent of his stomach and he was there for 12 days. Petty had started out the 1978 racing season with a new Dodge Magnum, with high hopes of continued success with a Mopar product. However the reality soon set in that the new body style was too wide and bulky to be a competitive racecar. So in a shocking move, the decision was made to abandon the use of Chrysler products and switch over to General Motors. At the time NASCAR had just approved the use of Chevrolet engines for all GM body styles, so Petty Enterprises ran a multitude of Chevrolet Monte Carlos, Buick Regals and Oldsmobile Cutlass models depending on the track (the Olds Cutlass Supreme "S" had a sloped nose that was more aerodynamic for the superspeedways), all powered by the high-revving small-block Chevy engines. At the 1979 running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, Petty's Oldsmobile slipped into first place after Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough tangled and both crashed into the Turn 3 wall, and Petty's STP car got the checkered flag. This race was the first time in history a 500-mile NASCAR race was televised in its entirety. The year went well for Richard and at the end of the season, Petty had won an unprecedented seventh Winston Cup February 2014 1/7/14 2:36 PM

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