Richard Petty bothered by downsizing of role at team since Jimmie Johnson’s arrival

Richard Petty Jimmie Johnson
Richard Petty Jimmie Johnson

Richard Petty concedes he’s been miffed at the downsizing of his role at the Cup team that bore his name before Jimmie Johnson became a minority owner.

Petty GMS Racing was renamed  Legacy Motor Club, and “The King” has no ownership stake in the organization that includes the No. 43 he made famous. The seven-time Cup series champion remains in an ambassadorial role with Legacy Motor Club, but Petty, 85, explained (during a media availability Saturday morning at Daytona International Speedway) that Johnson and his management team are in charge of all major decisions.

“Yes, it does,” Petty replied with a laugh when asked if that bothered him. “Because I’ve done things my way, which hasn’t been too good lately, but as time progresses, things change in the world. Then it probably was time for a change.

“Jimmie’s looking not necessarily at what’s going to happen this year, but he’s trying to lay a foundation for four or five years where he’s still young enough that he’s going to be around for a long, long time.”

When it comes to “sponsorship, appearances and all that stuff, Jimmie’s crowd kind of controls that,” Petty said. “That’s something I’ve never had to put up with, I guess. I still do my own thing. But then I do a lot for our new team.”

The Petty name has been a part of NASCAR’s premier series virtually since its inception until this year. Petty Enterprises was founded by Richard’s father, Lee, and it morphed into Richard Petty Motorsports and then Petty GMS in recent years.

Petty said his new role has “been strange to me” in part because he and Johnson agree on the team’s direction about 50 percent of the time.

“It’s been strange to me,” Petty said. “Most of the time, I run the majority of the show. Jimmie brought all his people in, and his way of running things (and) my way of running things, are probably a little bit different, OK?”

Johnson, 47, returned to NASCAR as a part-time driver and team owner after racing in the NTT IndyCar Series the past two seasons.

After locking in a spot via qualifying Wednesday, his start in Sunday’s Daytona 500 will be his first NASCAR race since the 2020 Cup season finale in Phoenix. He is planning more Cup starts this season (but only the Chicago street race has been confirmed beyond Daytona).

“I think Jimmie’s really looking to the future,” Petty said. “Basically he’ll wind up running the show in four to five years. He’ll probably be the majority owner of our operation in four to five years. I know that they’re looking at things completely differently.

“Jimmie’s very observant. Jimmie controls everything, basically. You’re making postcards and stuff, he has to approve it. He approves everything. He’s a pretty busy man right now.”

Legacy Motor Club fields Chevrolets in full-season rides for Erik Jones and rookie Noah Gragson. Petty said he understood why the team rebranded.

“That was one of the operations that when Jimmie come in, it was going to be hard to be ‘Petty Johnson GMS,’ ” Petty said. “Here again, Jimmie’s thinking further ahead with this group, and he come up with a new name.

“So we got him with seven championships, me with seven championships, (Hall of Fame crew chief) Dale Inman with eight championships. So a pretty legendary operation from the top up or the top down. That’s the reason they wanted a new team. They wanted to do stuff a little bit different, and that’s the reason they come up with (the name).”

Petty and Johnson are among nine past NASCAR champions and Daytona 500 winners who will serve as grand marshals for Sunday’s race.

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