Saturday, December 4, 2010

Another chapter of Richard Petty Motorsports

Earlier this week, an announcement was made Richard Petty Motorsports had restructured its ownership. The announcement is a remarkable one that hopefully puts an end to the tumultuous 6 weeks or so the team went through at the end of the season. Kasey Kahne was cut loose, Paul Menard announced he and daddy's money were headed to be a red-headed stepchild at RCR, Roush locked up cars and parts until checks could clear, etc. Apparently, RPM was truly at the end of their rope with the sobering reality the team - including Richard F'n Petty and the 43 - could have been gone for good.

Instead, the King and his Court put together a Hail Mary, full-court-press, 2-minute-drill restructuring together, and a smaller version of the team will now live to see another season.

Going out:
  • Majority owner...debtor George Gillet
  • His flunky Where's Waldo looking son Foster
  • Evernham Motorsports founder, RPM minority owner, and I-know-nushing | non-compete-agreement-bound | shag the help | ESPN announcer Ray Evernham.
  • Minority owner venture capital entity Boston Ventures
Coming in:
  • Doug Bergeron via DGB Investments - an investment vehicle founded by the CEO of VeriFone Systems (created via a spin-off from Hewlett Packard)
  • Andrew Murstein, President of Medallion Financial - a publicly-traded financing company who built its initial wealth by leasing taxi 'medallions' to NYC cabbies - an extremely lucrative situation for what started as a family business
The constant between the shifts in equity investors? The King. From things I've read, he's gone from a 4% owner and non-controlling interest in the old business to a 33% interest and the Mack Daddy, I'm-in-charge role in the restructured deal.

Why a 73 year-old man has chosen to put his chips all-in yet again is beyond me. The era we're in (and have been for the last 10-12 years) is Big Boy Money time. Hendrick, Roush, Childress, Gibbs. They have it. Others don't. Plus, let's face it. As big a fan of RP as I am, he didn't exactly lead the former Petty Enterprises team to the promised land once he left the driver's seat to settle into an owner's role.

Richard has earned the right to retire to the porch, fix himself a mayonnaise sammich, pop the lid on a bottle of Pepsi, use it to wash down a Goody's powder, and nap a while until the chime strikes on one his many Martinsville grandfather clocks. But that's not the King. He races. Always has. Always will. They'll carry the guy out feet first before he concedes his rightful place at the tracks.

Assuming the transaction has been or will be finalized, it'll be a comforting off-season to this Petty fan knowing the 43 will be at the beach in February. Where Richard goes from there though is a big mystery to me. He's my hero - and I know he won't be around forever. Who gets his stake and keeps the King brand alive and stoked? Dunno. His wife, Kyle, his sisters, and his grandchildren don't seem to be logical choices. Nor does Dale Inman. Robbie Loomis? Perhaps - but he's a manager, shop guy, car man, an offensive coordinator in football vernacular, etc. He isn't a logical choice to be the figurehead owner of a team much less the guy with financial backing.

But the King and his new partners will figure it out. For now, the King is racing again. He'll face the media regularly - except this time he'll get to respond to HIS decisions again vs. those made by the Gilletts. He'll keep alive the Petty name in the sport that dates back to the first NASCAR race.

...when his dad Lee Petty started Lee Petty Engineering (later shortened to just Petty Engineering)...

To the renaming of the company as Petty Enterprises in 1969...

To the introduction of a more contemporary logo for the company and its subsequent sale to Boston Ventures...

To the merger of Petty Enterprises into Gillett Evernham Motorsports where GEM was actually just a lump of coal and the King nothing more than a 4% owner and branding figurehead...

To now this week's news the King has now resumed his rightful place on the Petty throne.

One question some of us Petty fans have now is whether the 43 may sport the colors of a NYC taxi - especially with the investment by Murstein. For decades, outsiders have derisively referred to NASCAR race cars as taxi cabs. Perhaps now its time for the sport to turn the negative into a positive. Can you say Watkins Glen? Inquiring minds want to know. If so, perhaps the Ford will look something like this:

Props for artwork to my fellow Petty fan: Stimlad

Now that the restructuring has been announced, I guess an idea of mine from a few weeks ago is no longer valid. I was kind of hoping the King would take his money, "Richard Petty" brand and Ford relationship and merge it with the single-car team of another legendary NASCAR and Ford team, the Wood Brothers. The resulting company could have been called Petty Brothers Racing or PBR. Shoot, I already even had the logo ready.

Thanks to Jeremey at Digital Innovations Creative.

Sure, it would have taken some backroom politicking to make it happen.
  • Letting the Petty name trump the Woods.
  • Royalties to Pabst.
  • Maybe trading some cost towards loyalties for the logo for a lucrative Pabst sponsorship.
  • Convincing the King to come off his no-beer-sponsor stance.
Think about it for a minute. Pabst Brewing now owns about every yard beer you ever had. What a great opportunity it could have been for Petty Bros. Racing to feature Pabst beers in regional ways.
  • The colors of the flagship beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, could have been run about half the season.
  • How about Old Milwaukee at the Michigan races?
  • Old Style at Chicagoland?
  • Lone Star at Texas Motor Speedway?
  • "Natty Bo" National Bohemian at Dover?
Selfishly, I wish it could have happened. Pabst Brewing is the corporate parent of Schaefer beer, and I think I've been pretty clear where I stand with my loyalties to that brew...

Can you imagine a Schaefer 43 at the Daytona 500?


1 comment:

  1. Having been raised in the South, part of it in High Point, NC just a few miles from Level Cross, I'll say this. To go back on your word is considered pretty much a capital offense. To go back on your word to your mother gets you a special place in Hell just below the liars and cheats and only marginally better than the place reserved for murderers, rapists, lawyers, and politicians.