Legacy Motor Club’s name change signals more about it’s future, and less about it’s past



Per the Oxford dictionary: the long-lasting impact of particular events, actions, etc. that took place in the past, or of a person’s life.

On January 11th, it was announced that Petty GMS Racing will rebrand to Legacy Motor Club. The move comes on the heels of 7-time Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson joining the ownership group last November. The name has a deeper meaning than just a dictionary definition. It shows the team’s commitment to honor it’s roots while looking towards the future.

The Petty family is one which NASCAR’s history runs through from the beginning. Richard’s father, Lee, started racing in 1949 during NASCAR’s infancy. He would race until 1961, when an injury during qualifying for the Daytona 500 forced him to retire. Richard would race from 1959-1992, amassing 200 wins and 7 championships. Both father and son are enshrined in NASCAR’s hall of fame. Richard’s son, Kyle also raced for Petty Enterprises at the beginning and towards the end of his career, picking up eight wins of his own.

Over the last 35 years however, not all has been well for the once fabled name. Richard won his last race in 1984, albeit for owner Mike Curb after an illegal engine incident at Charlotte in 1983 fractured a relationship between Maurice and Richard, and rarely competed for victories in the time afterwards. He would reform the team in 1986. When Richard retired in 1992, it began a period of mixed results. Drivers like Rick Wilson, who would drive a newly renumbered 44 in 1993 and Wally Dallenbach who was at the helm of the 43 in 1994, combined for one top 5 and 5 top 10s in two seasons. Also in 1994, John Andretti would make starts for the team after Dallenbach was released. In 1995, Bobby Hamilton would take over and some of the results began to improve. He’d score 5 top 5’s, and the following year in Phoenix would collect Petty Enterprises’ first victory since 1983. He would win again at Rockingham in 1997, but left for Morgan-McClure Motorsports in 1998. Andretti returned to the team in 1998 and while results weren’t overly impressive, he did score a victory at Martinsville in 1999. That would be the final victory for Petty Enterprises as a company. In 2000, longtime sponsor STP would leave and General Mills would take over. By 2003, Petty Enterprises had become an also-ran. For such a storied car number, the finishes didn’t match the history.

By 2009, things were bleak. Their driver the year prior, 2000 Cup Series Champion Bobby Labonte, packed up and left, and General Mills left to sponsor RCR. Investor Boston Ventures couldn’t find sponsorship. Only a few crew members remained. In January, the team was sold to Gillett Evernham Motorsports, which itself was a shell of the original Dodge rebirth team Evernham Motorsports. Elliott Sadler, who drove for Evernham at the time, was to be replaced by then rookie A.J. Allmendinger. Sadler saw red, threatened to sue, and days later he returned to the 19, with A.J. taking over the newly numbered 43. The team would go on to leave Dodge for Ford. Several driver changes, and team reorganizations later, the Petty brand was dead in the water. They would finally reach victory lane again in 2014 in the rain shortened Coke Zero 400 with Aric Almirola. Almirola would drive for RPM through 2017.

An injury would force Almirola out of the car and would see Bubba Wallace make his first career starts until he was healthy again. Wallace would parlay those starts into a full time ride in the 43 with backing from Chevrolet for 2018, and would get his best career finish at that point in the Daytona 500, finishing second. Wallace would drive for RPM until the end of the 2020 season, with mixed results. He would leave to join the fledgling 23XI Racing team, after there were talks of RPM being bought into by Denny Hamlin. Erik Jones would be handed the keys for 2021 after his departure from Joe Gibbs Racing. In 2022, businessman and owner of GMS Racing Maury Gallagher would purchase the majority stake of Richard Petty Motorsports from Andrew Murstein, and the team would be rebranded as Petty GMS Racing. They’d add a second car to the stable for the first time since the GEM merger, as Ty Dillon drove the 42 for the entire season.

As the season progressed, so did the results for the 43 team. Almost every race saw the team in contention for a top 5 or top 10, and by the end of the season Jones would win the Southern 500. It was the 200th win for the 43 car in NASCAR history. After a tumultuous stretch of years, it seems that it is all coming together for one of NASCAR’s most iconic car numbers and teams.

But with the rebirth comes a bit of reality. The team has added another 7 time champion to its ownership group in Jimmie Johnson. Johnson retired from full time NASCAR racing in 2020 and has spent the last two seasons between IMSA and Indycar. As it sits, no one really knows Richard’s financial stake within the team. Gallagher has a controlling interest in the team, and Richard has been referred to as the “team ambassador” and Chairman of the team. By the looks of it, it seems as if any tangible reference to Petty’s glory days are gone.

By no means does that mean Richard is done with NASCAR. He’s 85 years young and has been a part of the sport since he was 21 years old. The 43 will always be known for him, no matter how many drivers have that number long after he is gone. He is one of the sport’s greatest champions and is treated like royalty everywhere.

Sadly, there is no Petty to continue on with ownership. Kyle drove for Petty Enterprises during the early years of his career. He returned to the team after merging his PE2 team with Petty Enterprises in 1997, and the plan was for his son Adam to continue the Petty name on into the future. That all changed in the spring of 2000, when Adam was killed at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during a practice crash for the Cup race. Kyle left the 44 car he was driving at that time to drive Adam’s 45 in the Busch series, with Steve Grissom taking over the 44 for the remainder of the season. Kyle would continue to drive the 45 until 2008, even scoring a second place finish in the 2007 Coke 600. However, when 2009 rolled around and Boston Ventures took over, Kyle was out. There were some bitter times and feelings between father and son. However, all is well now. Kyle even inducted his father into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The future of Legacy Motor Club lies in its two drivers, both of which have something to prove.

As stated earlier, Erik Jones won last season’s Southern 500, and was a legit contender in several other races as well. Jones is a talented driver, who found the short end of the stick at Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s one of only a few drivers to have won Rookie of the Year in Trucks, Xfinity and Cup, and won the Truck series title in 2015. Jones is out to prove he didn’t land at Legacy a few seasons ago just because the options were few, he’s there because he saw the vision going forward and what the company could be going forward.

Noah Gragson will drive the 42 in 2023 and run for Rookie of the Year. Gragson is fresh off an Xfinity Series season that saw him rack up 7 victories and a second place points finish behind Ty Gibbs, who he’ll be competing against for Rookie of the Year. The 24-year old has had plenty of success at the lower levels in NASCAR but his Cup finishes may leave a lot to be desired for some. Part of that can be attributed to driving for underfunded teams and also only making Superspeedway starts prior to 2022 when he split time in the 16 car for Kaulig Racing. Noah is out to show that he deserved this spot by his on track skill and not just the moments outside of the car after victories. It’s a big step away from Jr Motorsports, but it’s a move his four seasons there have prepared him for, especially with several mentors to choose from.

The name may have changed, but the lifeblood still remains. Though they may not reach the heights of what Lee and Richard created, Legacy Motor Club is out to restore the team to prominence. A strong start at Daytona could really go a long way in showing what else the future holds for the team.

Featured image from @rebilasphoto

Published by Phillip Spain

A 25 year veteran in the world Motorsports, Phil loves anything with an engine. When he’s not watching cars, he’s out with family.

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