Richard Petty Motorsports makes switch to Chevy, moves headquarters and aligns with RCR
By Rick Minter
Richard Petty is NASCAR’s leader in many on-track categories, including most wins (200), most poles (123) and most laps led (51,406), as well as being tied with Jimmie Johnson and the late Dale Earnhardt for the most Cup championships, with seven. He’s also one of the sport’s most tenacious participants. Even at age 80, he continues to make deals that keep him directly involved in the sport.
Last week it was announced that Richard Petty Motorsports, in which Petty holds a minority share but is the most visible part of the ownership team, is moving from Ford to Chevrolet and switching its alliance from Roush Fenway Racing to Richard Childress Racing.
The arrangement is similar to the one the Wood Brothers have with Team Penske in the Ford camp in that the Petty team will get its cars and engineering from Childress, but will remain an independent team.
Childress also will supply Richard Petty Motorsports from its engine-building subsidiary, ECR.
As part of the new arrangement, RPM will move from its current location in Mooresville, North Carolina, to a building on Childress’ complex in Welcome, North Carolina. The move is already under way and is expected to be completed next montho
Petty will field the No. 43 Chevrolet with driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., who will compete for rookie of the year honors in the Cup series.
The move will begin immediately and be completed by January.
“This is our next chapter of Petty racing,” Petty said in a release announcing the new arrangement. “We need to provide Bubba, Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) and the rest of the team with the tools necessary to be successful on the track, and I feel strongly this is the best move for RPM, our partners and everyone involved with our team.
“Chevrolet has been a consistent winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for a long time, and we’re proud to be a part of the GM family again. We feel we can immediately win with Chevrolet and our new alliance with RCR.”
Petty’s teams have run General Motors products at times through the years, with 31 wins while campaigning GM cars.
Some of those victories were scored by the late Lee Petty, Richard’s father, who won the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959 driving an Oldsmobile.
Richard won two Daytona 500s in GM vehicles — in 1979 with an Oldsmobile and in 1981 with a Buick. He won six races in a Chevrolet and got his 200th victory in a Pontiac at Daytona in July 1984.
He also won as a car owner with a Pontiac driven by the late Bobby Hamilton in 1996 at Phoenix and in 1997 at Rockingham.
Childress said in the same news release that he’s happy to be aligning with an iconic car owner and car number.
“To bring a storied organization like Richard Petty Motorsports on board as an alliance partner is a win for each of our organizations,” he said.
The moves put two of the sport’s most recognized cars, Petty’s No. 43 and the No. 3 of Childress, now driven by Childress’ grandson Austin Dillon, in the position of competing as quasi-teammates.
Both will campaign Chevrolet’s new Cup entry, the Camaro ZL1, beginning with the 2018 season-opening Daytona 500.