HomeSportsNascarNASCAR Legend Richard Petty Weighs In on Next Gen Cars

NASCAR Legend Richard Petty Weighs In on Next Gen Cars

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Legendary racer Richard Petty saw the inception of NASCAR’s famed Cup Series as a boy back in 1949 when his father, Lee, raced stock cars out of Charlotte, North Carolina. And now, at 84-years-old with a record 200 Cup Series wins under his belt, NASCAR’s winningest driver of all-time gets to see the Next Generation of racing technology debut for racing fans young and old.

The Johnson City Press recently asked Petty, a minority owner in Petty GMS Racing, to share his opinions about the Next Gen era of racing.

“I think it’s made everybody a little bit closer,” he said. “The back guys are not up front but they’re closer to the front. The guys running in the middle are pushing the guys up front. If you look at the finishes so far, there’s some new names. The competition because of the new car is so much closer.

“Each track has been different because the cars have never been on the tracks. When we come to Bristol, we will have been on every type track that NASCAR runs. The new car gives everybody a better chance of finishing better. Maybe not winning the race, but [anyone can go] from 20th to 15th.”

Richard Petty drove different generations of cars on all sorts of different NASCAR surfaces with unrivaled success

The Next Gen era really highlights just how much NASCAR has evolved since Richard Petty and his father collected dirt track wins during the sport’s infancy. In the Cup Series, Lee Petty ranks No. 1 on the all-time list with 42 dirt track victories. Richard won 30 times on the surface. The younger Petty even collected the sport’s final dirt track crown back in 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds until NASCAR brought back the surface for a special race last season at Bristol.

“When my dad first started, it was all dirt,” Petty remembered. “When I started, at least half the races were dirt and we ran dirt throughout the ‘60s. We were fortunate to win on dirt in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1970, which was the last dirt track race until they came to Bristol.

“Dirt is the groundwork for what NASCAR is now with the superspeedways and all that. If we hadn’t had the dirt tracks, we wouldn’t be here. It’s good to have a throwback and say we’re going to Bristol. It’s dirt and where NASCAR started. It makes me feel good that our history is not lost.”

NASCAR’s next scheduled race is the Food City Dirt Race from Bristol Motor Speedway this Sunday evening at 7:00 pm ET. Petty gave some thoughts on the historic track, like how much it means to him and other drivers.

“It’s always been a big deal, even when it first opened,” Petty said. “It was a little bit different. Then, they start started making a coliseum out of the thing and had 160,000 people show up. Now that they’re doing the dirt deal here, it rejuvenates the track. It’s exciting for the fans and it’s challenging for the drivers.”