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Richard Petty Reflects on Legendary Career… Out of the Drivers Seat For 25 Years!

Richard Petty is, and likely always will be, the winningest driver in NASCAR history, a distinction that certainly earned him his title of “The King” of the sport. Having been out of the driver’s seat for some twenty-five years, Petty has seen the sport evolve drastically from the cars he drove to the cars the series runs today, and he admits things are a lot different. “I look at the cars today, and I look at the cars we drove, and you go through and you see the safety features that we didn’t have,” Petty says with a hint of laughter. The laughter, of course, wasn’t about how safe the cars are today, but instead how unsafe the cars of yesteryear were, at least comparatively speaking. “It’s unreal that some of us are still surviving with the equipment that we had. I think that’s where I really see my 25 year separation.”

While I think it’s pretty obvious that a young Petty, as talented a driver as he certainly was, would have a hard time racking up 200 wins in today’s NASCAR series. In his day, Petty could run more than 50 races a year, greatly upping his chances of winning, There was also much less organization over the sport as a whole, meaning the better drivers were scattered across the country, not confined into the same 36-race series, battling each other week after week instead of spreading out and only crossing paths at bigger events a few times a year.

However, Petty also believes today’s stars would have a hard time adjusting to driving 40 years ago, and we have to agree on that front as well. Today’s cars are, for the most part, cookie cutters that all handle relatively similarly. Compare that to modified factory-built hotrods from Petty’s heyday and these guys would certainly be behind the eight ball and would have to learn from the beginning compared to what they know now.

This is a great interview with a true living legend of the sport, and it’s always great to hear his candid thoughts on the sport and how it’s evolved over the decades.