Watching Dover’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race brought back a pleasant sight. The usual sights were in order naturally. Kyle Busch claiming another win, a strong performance by Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick finishing well for Richard Childress Racing.
The image I ended the day with was a competitive run by A.J. Allmendinger sporting a Richard Petty throwback paint scheme.
I grew up as a Petty fan. When I was first exposed to motorsports as a young boy in the 1970s, my driver to root for was Richard Petty. The same way fans today cheer on Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon.
Auto racing, and in particular NASCAR, did not have anywhere near the widespread popularity it enjoys today. But racing is no more popular to me in 2010 as it was in 1976, just more people around me know about it.
I donned my Petty gear proudly back then. In fifth grade I had a bright Petty blue and day-glow orange cap with an embroidered image of the number 43 on it. I wore it to school. In Connecticut. In 1979. Yes, I stuck out a little bit.
After “King Richard" retired in 1992 I never latched on to that one driver to pull for. I liked several, and disliked a few also, but I never had a clear-cut favorite. Each Sunday afternoon I would root for an exciting finish. That last part is still true today.
Bobby Hamilton and John Andretti brought Petty back to victory lane as a car owner in the 1990s. In recent years Petty Enterprises has gone through several mergers and acquisitions to now be known as Richard Petty Motorsports. Aside from Petty’s involvement, similarities to the prior longstanding, family-owned business are minimal.
Kasey Kahne's two 2009 series victories for RPM saw Petty celebrating in the winner’s circle once again.
In Dover’s 400-mile chase Allmendinger had a strong run in the first half, at times getting within sight of Johnson’s strong car. The Richard Petty Motorsports’ Ford was showing off a color design that reflected Petty’s basic scheme from 1982 through his final season. Those colors brought back memories for many veteran stock car fans.
The machine was promoting NASCAR’s just-christened Hall of Fame, in which Petty is an inaugural class inductee. The seven-time champion has appeared in the media quite often lately. All the attention given to the veterans of years ago have shined a light on NASCAR’s history.
The young ‘Dinger’ is a nice choice to steer the famous colors. I personally had an opportunity to work with Allmendinger in my time employed by Red Bull Racing. His is among the most personable and quick-witted drivers in the garage area.
His personality draws fans into his corner to cheer for him; a quality shared by Petty himself. Smiling, laughing, joking and taking the time to chat can be used to describe the driver of the Petty 43 in 1965 and in 2010.
Watching the Dover weekend and seeing a car looking like the legendary machine from years ago brought back good memories and transported some fans to a time when we were younger and its driver was a threat to win every week. It helped that the color design was matched with a competitive car.
And in a time when core fans are looking for something to grab onto their interest again, this car looked good. Heck, it looked more than good, it looked right.
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