Racing insider: Petty still giving it his all
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Saturday, April 27, 2013, 10:54 p.m.
Richard Petty couldn't help but smile after being asked about NASCAR's decision to drop the hammer on teams pushing the envelope when challenging the sometimes-ambiguous rules protecting the integrity of the new Gen-6 car.
First, Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were docked 25 championship points for using unauthorized suspension systems. On Wednesday, Matt Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing were stripped of 50 championships points for using an engine that failed last Sunday's post-race inspection.
And Kenseth's crew chief, Jason Ratcliffe, was fined $200,000 and suspended for the next six Sprint Cup events. Car owner Joe Gibbs was docked 50 owners' points and had his license suspended for six races, during which he will be ineligible to receive owners' points.
“It used to be you go as far as you can without getting caught,” Petty said. “We got caught on a couple of things at Petty Enterprises, but, on the other hand, look at all the stuff we got by with. It's so much tougher now because we have so many different rules and NASCAR has so much more control.”
It's been nearly 21 years since Petty last took the No. 43 for a spin in a Sprint Cup race. But he's kept a watchful eye on the sport while perched atop a hauler.
However, race weekends have hardly consumed the King. The seven-time Cup champion remains the face of a sport he helped usher into the mainstream. More impressively, he has become an endearing ambassador for NASCAR.
Few have given so much and expected so little in return. Petty, an iconic figure even today, donates his money, time and wisdom to myriad charities and causes.
And he does it almost instinctively, if not habitually.
“I never really think about it,” Petty said while preparing his team for last weekend's race at Kansas Speedway. “I just do it.
“I realized that without the fans and stuff like that, there wouldn't be a Richard Petty. Whatever you can do to be good to the fans to show them they are main source of the sport, it becomes a natural deal.”
Petty transitions easily from one charity event to another. He was loading boxes of food on a truck in Kansas last Saturday then riding a motorcycle across the country as part of a weeklong effort to raise money for his Victory Junction program.
It's exhausting yet rewarding work. And it has come to define him as much as his illustrious career.
“It's a part of my life,” Petty said. “You sit down you realize how lucky some of us are to be in this position.”
Petty's charities are hoping to help Farmland Foods raise more than $100,000 to provide meals for more than 100,000 families in the Kansas City, Kan., area. In addition, 43 cases of Farmland products were donated in honor of the No. 43 Ford made famous by Petty.
For some, the sport owes Petty. But he's convinced there's plenty more to do with his charities.
“He is a very sincere and humble man. There's not an ounce of pretentiousness,” said Mike Brown, president and chief operating officer of Farmland Foods. “It's easy to work with him because you're not worried about bumping and stepping on somebody's ego.
“His legacy is about all the folks he has put in place to do well. I can't ever see him retiring. He worries about the day he can't come to the race — and the day he can't help others.”
Still, Petty continues to help rebuild NASCAR's image and brand, which has endured ups and downs over the past decade.
“I came along when the sport was being built,” Petty said. “I was just along for the ride.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- Parking tickets in Downtown Pittsburgh spark outrage
- Penn State’s Franklin cherishes memories of time spent in Pittsburgh
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Taillon among 6 Pirates send to minor league camp
- Western Pennsylvania engineer aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight
- Penguins notebook: Beau Bennett returns to practice
- Starkey: Steelers know when to say goodbye
- Agent confirms Mendenhall retiring from NFL
- Pittsburgh gets nonprofit help to build more bike lanes