By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports activities NASCAR Author
Richard Petty turned 85 years outdated final month, and the racer in him is just a little impatient.
He needs to see outcomes, most likely just a little quicker than needs to be anticipated after a company merged into what’s just about a brand new NASCAR Cup Sequence staff.
However typically, he likes what he is seeing out of his iconic No. 43 automotive on the observe and the development of the Petty GMS Racing operation.
GMS Racing purchased out Richard Petty Motorsports majority proprietor Andrew Murstein after the 2021 season, and the Petty staff moved into the GMS store as a part of the merged Petty GMS Racing.
Erik Jones, the motive force of the No. 43 automotive, sits 14th within the level standings (he would wish to win one of many three ultimate regular-season races to make the playoffs) and already has eight top-10s. Final season, he was twenty fourth within the standings and had six top-10s all yr.
“We’re a lot better off this year than we were last year,” Petty mentioned. “You’ve got to figure when one team gets involved with another team, it takes a little while to get everybody on the same page.
“So it is taken us most likely about half a yr to form of get everyone to grasp either side of the staff, and this staff is coming collectively.”
Away from the competition side, Petty has remained active, even brokering a sponsorship and personal services deal this year with the Hardee’s restaurant chain. And he did it in an old-school way.
When the local Hardee’s by his Randleman, North Carolina, home burned down last year, Petty, just being a member of the small community, would go by and talk to the workers as they were rebuilding. Those conversations led to Hardee’s being on the roof of the Jones car and Petty pitching a new chicken sandwich for the restaurant.
“We received speaking to the development individuals, and the development individuals received us concerned with the corporate individuals. After which all of it come about — serving to us with the race automotive just a little bit and doing just a little promoting for them,” Petty mentioned.
“I’ve most likely eaten sufficient rooster to have feathers.”
If only making improvements on the track were that simple and organic. While Jones has run well, his teammate, Ty Dillon, is 30th in the standings with one top-10. Petty GMS Racing announced Wednesday that Noah Gragson, who has eight Xfinity Series victories in his career and made the Xfinity championship round last year, will replace Dillon in the No. 42 car next season.
“He is now in a position to run for a championship [in Xfinity], and that is what we’re searching for — getting the caliber of drivers that may win championships,” Petty said about Gragson.
Petty GMS still has to improve to be a serious championship contender. The NASCAR Cup Series these days is all about finding speed by using simulation programs to set up the cars and engineering the car to fit the templates and meet all the scans.
NASCAR introduced the Next Gen car this year in hopes of increasing parity, which it has as most of the parts and pieces must be bought from a specific vendor.
“No one’s all yr lengthy has simply went out and actually dominated,” Petty said about the Cup Series in general. “Each race we’ve possibly one or two automobiles that come out and dominate.
“And they’re not the same two they had last week. I think everybody’s still really, really in the learning stage of how to be consistent with these cars.”
However the larger groups nonetheless have extra individuals engaged on the smallest of areas to search out velocity.
“The deal is everybody is still learning the car,” Petty mentioned. “We probably don’t have as many engineers and stuff as some of the top teams. We’re working on that part.”
Petty GMS lastly secured one in all NASCAR’s camera-and-laser scanning methods in early July. That can assist the staff put together automobiles for the observe figuring out they need to be throughout the technical parameters (and be capable to see what changes will both be authorized or unlawful).
“That’s just a pretty expensive tool for us, and we’re just now getting it. A lot of teams already have had it,” Petty mentioned. “We were a little bit behind in that territory.”
Whereas the staff appears to be like to enhance the bodily elements and items, Petty is pleased with the chemistry on the No. 43 automotive as Jones and new crew chief Dave Elenz are working properly collectively. Elenz was Gragson’s crew chief at JR Motorsports earlier than going to Petty GMS after the 2021 season, however he’s anticipated to proceed working with Jones. A crew chief for Gragson is to be decided.
Jones signed a multiyear deal final month to remain on the group, so Petty feels good about the way forward for Jones and Elenz.
“They have come together really good,” Petty mentioned. “Each of them perceive what they want, and they’re good at speaking it out.
“We have a few good engineers … to make changes to the automotive. It is coming alongside.”
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What to watch for
All eyes will be on Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. at Richmond as they battle for possibly the one spot left in the playoffs. They can each get in with a win over the final three regular-season races, but if there are no new winners, it will come down to which one finishes higher in the standings.
Martin Truex Jr. vs. Ryan Blaney
Who makes the 2022 NASCAR Cup Sequence Playoffs? Bob Pockrass gives his Quick Ideas.
Blaney, second general, is nineteen factors forward of Truex (fourth general). A driver can earn 55 factors in a race with out profitable by ending second and sweeping the stage victories.
Blaney sat on the pole and led the primary 128 laps in April at Richmond. He completed seventh at a observe the place he did not have a top-10 end till a yr in the past.
Truex has gained three of the previous six Richmond races and led 80 laps on his method to a fourth-place end in April.
Each drivers seemingly will probably be threats on Sunday. The race could possibly be a track-position affair, the place drivers battle to cross, as the opposite short-track races have been this yr.
Pondering out loud
This would be the first August race for Richmond, which generally has had its second race of the season in September and a part of the NASCAR playoffs.
With a purpose to boost the schedule, and presumably considerably acknowledge that Richmond hasn’t produced essentially the most thrilling racing in recent times, Richmond’s second race was moved to August.
It is also a Sunday day race as a substitute of a Saturday night time race.
There are some who assume that if this race would not go properly, Richmond ought to lose a race (there are some who already are saying that). Hopefully the warmth will make the observe slick and lack grip, requiring dealing with to return into play and doubtlessly creating extra cautions and extra comers-and-goers.
But when this race would not create buzz — if it has comparable challenges to different short-track races this yr and the August warmth would not excite followers — that should not end in NASCAR taking a race away from Richmond.
NASCAR ought to at the least attempt to make some modifications to the automotive in future years in order that it races higher at brief tracks. And if that once more would not boost Richmond, then possibly one race there may be sufficient. However a historic observe similar to Richmond, a observe that’s accessible for a lot of on the Atlantic coast and people who reside in Virginia and the Carolinas, should not have an occasion judged in a one-and-done situation.
They mentioned it
“I expect to win. Maybe I’m overconfident, I don’t know. I expect to win until the door closes. … I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to turn that off until the door is closed, and you just don’t open it back up. I’m just not wired that way.” — Kevin Harvick on snapping a 65-race winless streak at Michigan
Bob Pockrass has spent many years overlaying motorsports, together with the previous 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports activities in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting Information, NASCAR Scene journal and The (Daytona Seaside) Information-Journal. Observe him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Searching for extra NASCAR content material? Join the FOX Sports activities NASCAR E-newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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