Associated press3 minute read
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Richard Petty might still reign as the king of NASCAR, but with Jimmie Johnson taking over Petty’s old racing team, he’s definitely not the boss.
The Hall of Famer has essentially been stripped of his power within his eponymous former racing team which has been rapidly renamed and rebuilt since November. Johnson and Petty are the only seven-time living NASCAR champions — and that seems to be where the similarities end within the Legacy Motor Club front office.
Petty, 85, said on Saturday he had bruised feelings and little to say about the direction of the racing team since Johnson joined the ownership group.
“It felt weird to me,” Petty said. “Most of the time I ran the majority of the show. Jimmie brought in all of his people. His way of running things and mine are probably a little different. We probably agree on about 50% what it really boils down to.
Ahead of the Daytona 500, an unfiltered Petty said he was upset with Johnson’s surge. “Yeah, it bothers him,” he said.
Petty, however, admitted it was “probably time for a change” because through several incarnations of his racing team – the latest Petty GMS – his cars had never crossed the middle of the pack. GMS founder Maury Gallagher, chairman of Allegiant Air, bought Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, and Petty, whose 200 Cup wins as a driver is a record, served as leader.
One of Johnson’s first decisions: removing Petty’s name, which dates back to NASCAR in 1949.
“When Jimmie came along, it was going to be tough being Johnson Petty GMS,” Petty said. “Jimmie is thinking further with his team and has come up with a new name.”
Petty remains NASCAR’s most recognizable personality, sporting his feathered cowboy hats, dark glasses and cowboy boots. He never stopped signing autographs, making personal appearances or offering happy sponsors, though even those responsibilities seemed more uncertain under Johnson’s reign.
“They don’t take care of the racing part, they take care of the front office,” Petty said. “With the endorsements and appearances and all that, the Jimmie crowd sort of controls that. It’s something I’ve never had to put up with, I guess.
Petty took his hat off to Johnson’s business acumen: Johnson’s connections to Gibson guitars and connections to the music industry, including entertainment giant Live Nation, were instrumental in bringing the legendary rock band Guns N’ Roses on the hood of Erik Jones’ #43 Chevy.
“He’s going to end up running the show in four or five years completely,” Petty said. “He will probably be the majority owner or the owner of our operation. They see things completely differently.”
Petty and Johnson are among nine drivers who have won a NASCAR and Daytona 500 championship set to serve as grand marshals for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Legacy MC also offers cars for Erik Jones and Noah Gragson.
“Jimmie is very observant. He takes charge of everything,” Petty said. “Jimmie controls everything, basically. You make postcards and everything, he has to approve it. He approves everything. He’s a very busy man at the moment.
This includes shopping. The 47-year-old Johnson returned to NASCAR after a two-year stint in IndyCar and proved he had lost nothing in his first laps in NASCAR’s new car. He qualified in speed for the Daytona 500, flew with the Thunderbirds and topped the first speed chart in practice.
Johnson’s racing career, however, was coming to an end. He just started as the team owner.
“He’s still young enough to stick around for a long time,” Petty said.