Petty just an employee now Petty Enterprises has merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports (GEM), which means that two teams fielding five cars are going to turn into one team fielding three. Apparently, Kasey Kahne will remain in the No. 9 Dodge, A.J. Allmendinger will move into the No. 19 for the discarded Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson will drive the No. 43 that is as familiar as the name Petty. Nos. 10 and 45 will be no more.
Translation: George Gillett has bought the name Petty and the No. 43. Richard Petty is now mainly a spokesman, not an owner. This is all about what big businessmen refer to as “the brand.” The Petty brand was worth something. Petty Enterprises wasn’t. Petty will be to the team what Col. Harlan Sanders was to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Long before he died, Col. Sanders was a brand, not an owner, of the “11 herbs and spices.” Petty is now a brand, not a race team. Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC. Soon we’ll find out specifically what Petty Enterprises is going to be. Gillett-Petty? Gillett Racing with Petty? (In effect, Gillett has already raced with Petty … and won.)
This isn’t unique to racing. It isn’t completely unique to hard times, though hard times are propelling these moves. Only the strong survive. It’s why the name of your bank keeps changing. It’s why you check the mail and find out you’re filling in a new name on your mortgage payments. It’s why it’s a lot harder to buy washing machines and lawn tractors and television sets from local, home-owned businesses, and why, when you have a problem, you end up talking to a high-tech answering machine instead of a human being. Longtime, familiar faces are going out of business, not just on the track but in your hometown.
Eventually, this sport passes most everyone by, which is why there are no more Junior Johnsons, Bud Moores and Holman-Moodys and why there’s a good chance there will be no more Wood Brothers. rbma.com
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