What do you ask an icon? What interview question has the King of stock car racing never heard before? How can he suffer yet another journalist? Richard Petty started racing in 1949 and Petty Enterprises is still owned by him. The 69-year-old is unique in motorsports as a racer, multi-champion, and team owner who has been at the beginning of NASCAR up to its present day.
He shared his one-of-a-kind perspective with OvalTracking .com in a freewheeling interview at the Level Cross shops. It was so freewheeling we’ve enough tape for two parts. He was in good humor – despite having had a bone spur removed a few days before in his left foot and wearing a soft cast. As he has been over 50 years of dealing with the press, he was generous with his time and candid with his answers.
Richard Petty Fan Appreciation Day
OvalTracking .com: (Pointing at cast.) Who’ve you been kicking?
Richard Petty: (Smiling that megawatt smile and taking a step toward me.) Anybody who can’t get away fast enough!
OT: I was here a few weeks ago for the Richard Petty Fan Club open house and it’s amazing that you had fans come all the way from Australia.
RP: Kinda weird. Haven’t been in a race car for 15 years or whatever and they still jump right in there. (Chuckling)
We went to Goodwood [Festival of Speed] in England and it’s amazing. People come up to you that are 15 years old, or 35 or 55 or 95, and they had heard tell of you. They didn’t knowyou, but there had been enough stuff that went across the ocean over a period of time – you have to look at it that we have been here for 50 to 60 years – so it makes a difference.
OT: How involved are you with the teams now? What does Richard Petty do day to day?
RP: Not much. As little as he can get by with. I still own the company, but over a period of time I have turned it over to other people to run. My job is to keep those people in line, so we’re on the same page. The major deal is to work with all our partners. From NASCAR to General Mills or Wells Fargo, whoever it may be. When you get this far along in life then there is a lot of extra stuff to do, whether it has to do with the race cars or not. People want you to do a personal appearance, or personal service deals.
I’m busier now really than when I was driving a race car because when I was driving, I was working on the car and here every day, and didn’t have time to do that stuff.
I have a full schedule every day. Interviews on what happened in 1949 and what’s going on today. When you’re talking with me – I was at the very first Cup race they had in 1949, at Charlotte. And probably haven’t missed 50, maybe 100 races that NASCAR has ever had that I haven’t been there. I have been to more Cup races than any other one human being.