NASCAR has evolved
Franklin County Times
Bad news keeps getting worse for Petty Enterprises.
Only one week after learning General Mills would be leaving the team as the primary sponsor for the legendary No. 43, it seems likely the car's driver will follow them to Richard Childress Racing.
Childress announced several weeks ago he would begin his 2009 campaign with an additional car in the garage, the No. 33 Chevy.
Labonte offers a very attractive package to a new car with no points and no guaranteed starting spot in next year's Daytona 500: A past champions provisional.
I don't think anyone would argue that the face of NASCAR has changed dramatically in the past 10 to 15 years. The Pettys haven't been competitive week in and week out for more than a decade.
I remember growing up when Roberts Yates Racing was the team to beat. Now, it pains me to see Davey Allison's No. 28 out there without a sponsor. Sure, it's Travis Kvapil's ride now, but it's still disheartening to see that old Texaco 28 out there, stark white with "Sponsor Me" driving around the track. Yates' other car, David Gilliland's No. 38, will also spend much of the season without sponsorship.
A once thriving NASCAR elite team can't even secure sponsorship on cars that are nowhere near as dominant as they once were.
Other legendary teams, like Bill Davis Racing and the Wood Brothers, are only shadows of what they used to be.
Last year, Davis and driver Dave Blaney were the toast of the garage as they were by far the best performing Toyota Camry team. Now, that's an afterthought. Wood Brothers has a competitive Nationwide Team with Marcos Ambrose and Kingsford Charcoal.
But that pales in comparison to when they dominated the premier auto racing circuit with the likes of Fireball Roberts, Dale Jarrett, A.J. Foyt, Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Ned Jarrett, David Pearson, Ralph Earnhardt, Neil Bonnett, Ricky Rudd and Bill Elliott. That short list of drivers reads like a Hall of Fame tourism brochure.
Even Richard Childress, who is a legend in his own right, is not as prominent in the garage as he once was when that black No. 3 was the most feared thing on the track.
He's still a top tier owner and runs a top-tier team, but Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs are the Pettys and Woods of this millennium. They've got the flashy drivers and they win.
The guys – the teams, drivers and car owners – who paved the way to get NASCAR where it is are now vying to stay in the top 35 in the point standings every Sunday, not racing for checkered flags.
Jason Cannon is the publisher of The Franklin County Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (256) 332-1881, ext. 11.