Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice?: Richard Petty’s ‘Shrinking Legacy’ Signals a NASCAR Changing of the Guard

Did You Notice? … Legacy Motor Club has shrunk the involvement of Richard Petty within its race team? Since 47-year-old Jimmie Johnson bought in at the end of last season, Petty’s been more of a brand ambassador than someone making major decisions within the organization.

How Petty feels about it seems more nuanced than an AP article this past weekend suggesting The King was hurt over losing power within the race team. He openly participated in decisions that led to additional ownership involvement and is open about how his team has floundered competition-wise: a Petty-owned car has qualified for the postseason only once, in 2014 with Aric Almirola.

Yes” was the answer when reporters asked if the changes bothered him but Petty also admitted that, at 85 years old, Johnson was the future.

“As I’ve progressed and time progresses and things change for the world, it was probably time for a change,” Petty said. “Jimmie is looking not just at this year; he is trying to lay a foundation for the next four or five years.

“He is still young enough he is going to be around for a long, long time.”

See also
Chris Rice, AJ Allmendinger Reflect on Having Fun, Kaulig Racing Growth & 2023

It’s a tough realization Father Time comes for all of us. Petty’s contemporaries are aging out of the sport: Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough, also in their 80s, haven’t owned NASCAR Cup Series teams for over two decades. While Petty may be the most recognizable face in the sport, even he realizes he won’t be around forever.

The sport’s winningest driver is simply the latest casualty of a generational transition in ownership. It was 51-year-old Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon, not 73-year-old Rick Hendrick, front and center with the media at Daytona International Speedway. 39-year-old Brad Keselowski, even as a full-time driver/owner, is now the face at RFK Racing, not 80-year-old Jack Roush.

It’s the same type of shift we’ve seen on the Cup grid the past few seasons, where 20- and early 30-something talent has suddenly gained the upper hand over their contemporaries.

Just check out the shift in ownership ages on the Cup grid …

  • Live Fast Motorsports: B.J. McLeod, 39
  • RFK Racing: Brad Keselowski, 39 (Jack Roush, 80)
  • Trackhouse Racing: Justin Marks, 41
  • Wood Brothers Racing: Jon Wood, 41 (assumed he takes over after Eddie and Len)
  • 23XI Racing: Denny Hamlin, 42 (Michael Jordan, 60)
  • Legacy Motor Club: Jimmie Johnson, 47 (Maury Gallagher, 71 & Richard Petty, 85)
  • Spire Motorsports: Jeff Dickerson, 48
  • Kaulig Racing: Matt Kaulig, 50
  • Stewart-Haas Racing: Tony Stewart, 52 (Gene Haas, 70)
  • JTG Daugherty Racing: Tad Geschickter, 60
  • Front Row Motorsports: Bob Jenkins, 60
  • Rick Ware Racing: Rick Ware, 62

Most of those ownership shifts in Cup have occurred since the end of 2020: McLeod, Keselowski, Marks, Hamlin, Johnson and Kaulig. It’s a generation’s worth of fresh talent, filled with ideas to help accelerate the sport’s recent upswing.

One of them happens to be quality over quantity. In fact, Marks mentioned at Daytona there were “diminishing returns,” in his opinion, for a team that had more than three full-time cars. It’s a philosophy that could allow for more seats at the table long-term as owners age out, creating even greater parity in a series dominated by four-car operations.

So Petty’s not the first to be pushed aside by Father Time, and he won’t be the last either. More are coming as we take a look at the list of current Cup owners over age 70 …

  • Hendrick Motorsports: Rick Hendrick, 73 (Gordon, 52, is Vice Chairman)
  • Richard Childress Racing: Richard Childress, 77
  • Joe Gibbs Racing: Joe Gibbs, 82
  • Team Penske: Roger Penske, 86

The old guard still has plenty of power: this group accounted for 12 of 16 NASCAR Playoff spots last year. But there’s a whole new crop of owners nipping at their heels, armed with long-term strategies to compete. A strong transition plan, like Hendrick involving Gordon, is needed in each of these scenarios for these teams to stay competitive and retain sponsorship.

Did You Notice? … Winning the Daytona 500 does not correlate to the same type of success that it used to? The last three winners of the Great American Race have a total of five Cup victories to their name (and none of them have occurred at a track other than Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway).

See also
Only Yesterday: Daytona to NASCAR Title? Not So Fast

In the last 10 years, only two Daytona 500s have been won by Cup champions: Joey Logano (2015) and Kurt Busch (2017). That means some of the sport’s biggest names are mired in an 0-for Daytona drought, from Martin Truex Jr. (0-for-19) and Kyle Busch (0-for-18) to Kyle Larson (0-for-10) and Chase Elliott (0-for-8).

Sure, a superspeedway package restricting engine power has been around for over 35 years. But that doesn’t fully explain the shift: from 2004-13, star power dominated this race in the form of six wins from Cup champions (with Johnson and Matt Kenseth each winning twice).

Does that mean the sport’s biggest race has lost its luster? I don’t think so. Maneuvering within the draft is still a skill set; you don’t just roll the dice and hope for the best.

Instead, I think the 500 has benefitted from the sport’s playoff era. Middle- and lower-tier teams circle it on the calendar and know it’s one of a handful of opportunities they might have all year to win a race. Basically clinching a playoff spot after race one creates important sponsorship and financial benefits other teams take for granted.

It’s not that the big-name drivers don’t want to win. It’s that their competition is double what is on other tracks, with luck a bigger factor in the outcome than anywhere else. Big wrecks are unavoidable if they happen in front of you; losing teammates may could cost you a pusher in the draft.

I would feel differently if the sport’s 500 winner wasn’t embarking on a national media tour immediately after the race. Or if it still weren’t pulling in the highest television rating of any race all year.

The perception still exists this event is the biggest one of all. That’s what matters, and it seems inconceivable anything else, even the Championship 4 event, would one day eclipse it.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off …

  • Condolences to AJ Allmendinger and his wife, Tara, over the loss of Mr. Tickles the Cat, who passed shortly after they returned from the Daytona 500 Sunday night (Feb. 19). Tickles had his own Twitter page with nearly 7,000 followers and was one of the most beloved animals within the NASCAR garage.
  • It would be foolish if this Daytona 500 is the last NASCAR Cup race Travis Pastrana, 39, ever runs after an 11th-place finish. Can his success fuel others like Helio Castroneves, who was supposed to run the Daytona 500 after being promised a ride after an SRX win, to make the jump?
  • Your current Auto Club Speedway forecast: 100% chance of rain with the temperature never rising above 50 degrees. The low Saturday night? Just 38 degrees. Could it snow during NASCAR’s final 2-mile oval race in Southern California? Stranger things have happened …
  • As I mention at CBS this week, here’s the laps led breakdown for this year’s Daytona 500 by manufacturer. Ford 122, Toyota 46, Chevy 44. And here’s a top-10 breakdown by manufacturer: Chevy 5, Ford 4, Toyota 1. Feels like a missed opportunity for the Blue Ovals …

Follow @NASCARBowles

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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Bill B

I can’t say I know the inner workings of Petty’s team, but for the at least the last 10 years he has seemed like the face of the company but not much else. Similar to Colonel Sanders at KFC. The company has had more splits than you see on league night at a bowling alley, so the current situation isn’t really surprising. It was just a matter of time.

With respect to Daytona, every time they make a new rule (GWC finishes, multiple GWC restarts, double file restarts with lead lap cars on the inside, lucky dog, wave around and restrictor plates themselves) and every time they introduce a new car since the COT (which brings us closer to a kit car), they increase the luck factor and lessen the importance of driving skill and engineering ingenuity. How can anyone be surprised that the racing becomes more about luck and circumstances than excellence and hard work? So yeah, “Winning the Daytona 500 does not correlate to the same type of success that it used to”.

Thanks for the weekend’s weather report for Cali. Now I can plan my weekend accordingly knowing that watching a race might be a long shot.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bill B
Alfred in AZ

RE: The Daytona 500, a couple of options:
With the current car configuration and race format, a 190 mi/hr crash fest is baked in. Is this really racing? I think not. Luck has become an overriding factor. Joey Logan is quoted somewhere that there is about a 30% chance of finishing.

1 – Consider scrapping the LA Coliseum exhibition event (1/4 mi track better suited for Midget racers). Make the Daytona 500 an exhibition, no-points event, with maybe two or three heats plus a main event for the top 20 or 25 still standing. Instead of boring stage breaks, there would be race breaks to allow teams to regroup / repair as required. Borrow a page from Tony Stewart’s SXR series, only on a grander scale. Race breaks allow for an over-the-top number of mind-numbing commercials while not interrupting on-track activity.

2 – Or, if it still needs to be a points race, consider rolling in a couple of road course elements – the bus stop chicane on the back stretch, and add another chicane on the front stretch to break up the boring side-by-side strings of cars droning lap after lap until someone gets out of shape and the inevitable happens. Yes, there will be spins and crashes in the chicanes, but I think it would remove, or at least significantly reduce, the random luck effect.

For now, Back to real racing………..

Kurt Smith

No need to do all that. After the Daytona race in the summer, lower the banking enough so that drivers have to brake at least a little bit going into the turn. Do the same for Atlanta and Talladega once their races are done for the season. Make all of these tracks feature real actual racing instead of IROC crash fests.

Bill B

Now about negative banking?

Alfred in AZ

We’re on the same page as far as the end result – bring overall driver skill back into it – or, make it an exhibition event.


I think it speaks volumes that Gordon is in line to replace Hendrick and Johnson is on another team.

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