Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Richard Petty itches to drive his team to success

After 200 NASCAR Sprint Cup wins and 1,184 races, Richard Petty has finally hit the one thing that could slow him down.

Time.

When The King was atop the racing world, Petty was involved in every aspect of his cars, from the driving to the mechanics. He stayed ingrained in the day-to-day details as a team owner, after he retired as a driver in 1992.

But as Petty approaches his 79th birthday Saturday — the same day as the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway — his role at Richard Petty Motorsports focuses more on promotions than pistons.

"Over a period of time, I got farther and farther and farther away from the race track," Petty said in a recent phone interview from his team's shop in North Carolina. "The way it's been running lately, it's looking like I'm going to have to get back involved."

That's because Petty's team hasn't been living up to the expectations of one of the most legendary names in racing.

RPM has only five wins since 2009. The No. 43 car Petty made famous has only one victory this century — Tampa native Aric Almirola's rain-shortened win at Daytona two years ago.

"It was a perfect storm for us. Everything came together. …" Petty said. "It's not come together since then."

Petty doesn't blame Almirola, the 32-year-old Hillsborough High alumnus.

Petty said Almirola is a better racer now than he was a year ago and certainly better than he was when he joined the team as a full-time Cup driver in 2012, even if the results don't always show it.

"When we give him a decent car," Petty said, "he gets the best out of it."

The problem, Petty said, is that the team doesn't give Almirola or teammate Brian Scott decent cars very often.

Almirola and Scott are two of the 11 Cup regulars who failed to lead more than one lap through the series' first 15 races. Their Fords have combined for only four top-20 runs and eight finishes on the lead lap. Neither was in the top 25 in points.

The mediocrity has surprised Petty, considering the strides his team had been making. Almirola's win in 2014 qualified him for his first appearance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He was only 17 points from making the Chase last season but had to settle for 17th.

"I feel like the end of last year, we had our arms around everything," Petty said. "I was really looking forward to the season. It's really been a bust from the word go."

As Petty's team prepares to head back to the famed 2½-mile tri-oval, Petty is preaching a return to basics. Ignore what the other teams are doing and get back to what made Almirola a Chase contender.

"Shut the doors and don't listen to nobody," Petty said. "Let's try our way of doing things because it's worked before, and I don't see why it won't work again."

Even though Petty's role on his team has evolved, he doesn't envision stepping away.

Aside from his charity work and a fishing tournament, Petty doesn't have many other hobbies. After spending almost six decades in racing, he isn't sure what else to do — other than keep working to improve the results.

"This is what I've always done," Petty said. "I've worked my way into this. This is my lifestyle. As long as my toes are facing forward instead of upward, I think I'll still be doing all of it."

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected]. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

Comments
Wozniacki advances to quarterfinals

Wozniacki advances to quarterfinals

MELBOURNE, Australia — Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki is through to the Australian Open quarterfinals and with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking in women’s tennis. Wozniacki beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-0 today at Rod Laver Arena. Rybarikova...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning journal: Vasilevskiy’s bottom line, Callahan’s production concern

Lightning journal: Vasilevskiy’s bottom line, Callahan’s production concern

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The rest of the Lightning players had left the ice Friday afternoon, heading into the dressing room at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon for a quick change before the team’s charter flight to Minnesota.But G Andrei Vasilevskiy stayed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Sports in brief

SPORTSNO AIR FORCE GAMES; NFL BROADCASTS ABROAD IN JEOPARDYThe federal government shutdown prompted the Air Force Academy on Saturday to call off sports events and upended plans for military outside the United States wanting to follow today’s NFL con...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jalen Hudson came off the bench to score 17, and Chris Chiozza, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes contributed clutch baskets down the stretch as Florida rallied to upset No. 18 Kentucky 66-64 Saturday night. "We were able to win it jus...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Avalanche climbs into playoff spot with ninth straight win

DENVER — The Avalanche has gone from pushover to powerhouse in less than a season, and its recent streak is evoking memories of past glory. Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson and Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist each, Jonathan Bernier made 27 save...
Updated: 1 hour ago
After rout, LeBron scoffs at playoffs

After rout, LeBron scoffs at playoffs

CLEVELAND — LeBron James came up just short of 30,000 points. Oklahoma City nearly got there, too. Unable to stop Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony, the Cavaliers were embarrassed 148-124 Saturday by the Thunder, which not only rolled...
Updated: 1 hour ago
McIlroy shoots third-round 65, trails by 1 at Abu Dhabi

McIlroy shoots third-round 65, trails by 1 at Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy fired 7-under 65 Saturday in the third round of the Abu Dhabi Championship to move one shot behind co-leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters. Fisher shot 65 and overnight leader Pieters added 67 to reach...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMiami at N.C. StatenoonCh. 44Rutgers at MichigannoonBig TenWomen: South Carolina at KentuckynoonESPNUWomen: Marquette at VillanovanoonFS1Women: George Washington at DaytonnoonCBSSNWomen: Virginia Tech at Virginia12:30 p.m.Fox S...
Updated: 1 hour ago

National Hoopfest: St. Petersburg’s Serrel Smith shines in loss to national power

TAMPA — Where there's a will, there's a way. And Serrel Smith had a gym-full of will on Saturday.With St. Petersburg trailing nationally-ranked Oak Hill Academy by as many as 21 points in the third quarter of the National Hoopfest contest, Smit...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

ST. PETERSBURG — USF had expected to have four former players in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, but QB Quinton Flowers had to miss the showcase game after learning that his grandmother had died late last week."I most definitely ...
Updated: 2 hours ago