New Year, New Hope
Richard Petty Motorsports very nearly ceased to exist at the end of the 2010 NASCAR season. Fans heard about how dire the situation was from journalists covering the story, but I don’t think many realized just how close that team came to not making it from race to race after George Gillett threw up his hands and said, “I give up.” Thankfully Richard Petty countered by saying, “I never give up.” The Hall of Fame legend scrambled and scratched his way to the top of the organization that bears his name and took the dangling reins in his capable hands. He found funding to get the four teams to the end of the season and gathered some investors who were willing to take a chance in auto racing’s elite division.
Now going into 2011, Richard Petty Motorsports has pared down from four teams to two. It might seem like a step backwards to some people, but having two fully funded cars and the concentrated resources to work on those cars is huge. Quality can overcome quantity, especially when you align yourself with a manufacturer like Ford and form an alliance with a top caliber team like Roush Fenway Racing. Yes, Richard Petty Motorsports has trimmed down, but that just means they are leaner, meaner, and hungrier than ever.
Richard Petty went to Victory Lane with Kasey Kahne in 2009, but he was largely just a figurehead in the organization at that time. I’m sure that his desire to go back to the winner’s circle is stronger than ever now. And there are no two people more eager to take him there than a duo of very talented drivers like AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose, both of whom are looking to score their first Sprint Cup win and prove that they belong in the sport.
Not only is there a strong desire to take their boss, Richard Petty, to Victory Lane – but those drivers would desperately like to take their sponsors there also. If you glanced through my transcript from RPM’s Media Day event, and have read my prior articles about AJ’s relationship with Best Buy, you know how important it is to that young man to do right by his sponsor. He wants to win for himself, for his family and friends, for his fans, and for his boss. But he especially wants to win for the company that put their trust in his ability – Best Buy.
I know AJ can do it, but then I’ve always known that he will be a winner someday. There isn’t a single morning before a race where I don’t believe that he could win that day. That’s what being a fan of a driver is all about. I’m happy when he gets a top 10 finish and ecstatic with a top 5. Heck, there are some races where I’m happy with a top 20 just because they have successfully battled through adversity to get there. But the reason I’m happy with those things is because I know that they are just a progression towards the bigger picture. Top 10’s, top 5’s, poles – those baby steps are leading to a final goal, one that I know is attainable.
I have high standards for what I want to happen in 2011. I know AJ is capable of contending for a spot in this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. But I also have high hopes this year. AJ will win a race at some point in his career, with hopefully many more to follow, and 2011 might just be the year he does it.