For decades, NASCAR has showcased the best drivers and the best owners for a majority of the Sunday afternoons in the calendar months. During that time, there were some races in the season teams circle that they want to win at, whether it’s a hometown event or in the back yard of sponsors. Yet there are some that every driver, every owner, and even NASCAR officials themselves circle as the big events to have success at.
Call them the big races, or “crown jewel” races, but every driver knows that winning that race is something that cannot be taken off a resume.
Richard Petty has won the big races in his career, as both a driver and as an owner. “The King” has been to victory lane in the Daytona 500 a record seven times, something no other driver has come close to. The season-opening event is always the big event, with the most importance, and the one many will remember for the entire year.
Petty has won the Coca-Cola 600, or as it was in his era the World 600, the sport’s longest race. It tests the endurance of driver, team and equipment. In that time, there were no air conditioning units in the cars, nor cooling areas for the crew. It was pure endurance to push the equipment and the people involved to make it through the longest race of the year.
Then there’s Darlington, the oldest track on the circuit, and the one race that dates back to the early era of the sport. There’s no question the Southern 500 has historic meaning to the sport, and it’s a track where Petty has seen great success in the Labor Day weekend race.
At the end of the 1992 season, Petty hung up the helmet and became strictly an owner, and he still maintained the unmistakable mystique of him being called “The King” of the sport.
However, as an owner, he has not tasted victory at the sport’s newest “crown jewel” race. He has ran a stock car on this track, but never in competition. Just as a publicity event, when stock cars were getting tested at a track where it was mainly about open-wheel competition.
Richard Petty Motorsports, whether it is Aric Almirola or Sam Hornish Jr, has an opportunity to bring Petty something that very few owners have been able to do. One would think it has been accomplished already, but Petty has not been able to do so in the previous 20 years.
With a victory at Indianapolis on Sunday, Petty would become the newest “Grand Slam” owner in the sport.
Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress have each been able to be part of this elite group. Hendrick has been able to pull off this feat with his two top drivers, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, while Childress was able to complete the accomplishment when Dale Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 in 1998, three years after the “Intimidator” won the Brickyard.
Yet Petty has come up short ever since 1994 at the Brickyard. Petty has even tried his hand as an owner in the Indianapolis 500, with no success. In fact this year his team never saw the green flag, as an engine failure on the pace laps ended that quest before it even started.
To be a “Grand Slam” owner in the sport, winning the biggest race, the longest race, the oldest race and the Brickyard, is something that only the elite have pulled off. Yet Petty is still not in that group, not yet at least. There is still time for “The King” to become one of those to have pulled off the effort.
RPM is ready to put itself in that position, to win at Indianapolis, qualify for the Chase, and make Petty proud.
Plus, seeing “The King” kneel down and figure out how to kiss the bricks wearing his trademark hat is something everyone has been waiting for.