It’s been rough since Richard Petty retired. The most coveted race car driver of all time hasn’t neared the amount of success as a car owner that he once had and always will have as a driver in the most prestigious racing series of all time.
First it was Petty Enterprises, but that ship sailed a few years ago after the team struggled with Kyle Petty and a series of drivers in the famous No. 43 since Petty retired in 1992. Since 2009, it has been Richard Petty Motorsports after Petty merged with a down falling Gillett-Evernham Motorsports team co-owned by championship winning crew chief, Ray Evernham and then owner of the Montreal Canadians, George Gillett.
Since the two teams merged, the struggle that has been suffered is tremendous. Over the past four years, the team has won just four races. Two of them were by Kasey Kahne in 2009 and the other two were by Marcos Ambrose, both of road courses which are his well-known specialty. However, shortening the team from four to two cars has slowly worked for the organization.
The team has had several near wins over the years and has even dominated races such as when A.J. Allmendinger dominated the Dover chase race in 2010.
2012 was a mediocre year for the team and by far not what they wanted. Ambrose improved from 2011 and Aric Almirola started out the year slow, but had a breakthrough race at Kansas where he led a career high 69 laps, but wrecked several times resulting in a 29th place finish. However, both teams finished inside of the top-20 in points which is definitely a sign of progress especially for Almirola who made the jump from the Nationwide Series.
Richard Petty Motorsports will be looking forward to the 2013 season for several reasons. It was announced roughly a month ago that the two drivers have re-signed with the team and will continue to work for the organization. Todd Parrott will be aboard the pit box for Almirola who also had a pole in 2012. Meanwhile, Ambrose will continue to work with Drew Blickensderfer who took over as the crew chief of the No. 9 car after Martinsville in October. Stanley and Dewalt Tools will reunite with Ambrose for the majority of the 2013 season which should be a benefit to the organization. Smithfield Foods will return to sponsor Almirola along with several other sponsors for single-multiple race deals which the team had over the course of the 2012 season.
The team has also re-signed its contract with Ford Racing as they will continue their relationship with Roush-Fenway Racing. They will continue to use Roush-Yates engines which should help them with the generation six car which has been faster than the old car.
While Ambrose struggled at the end of the season, Almirola basically caught on fire and turned a horrific season into one that could mean a possible chase run in 2013 which is just what Richard Petty Motorsports truly needs. Besides resigning their two Sprint Cup Series drivers, the team has also resigned Michael Annett who had a career best fifth place finish in the Nationwide Series standings with career highs top fives, top tens, average start, average finish, miles as well as lead lap finishes which has now deemed him as a contender for the 2013 championship. Pilot Travel Centers and Flying J will be aboard the No. 43 for a full schedule once again as Richard Petty Motorsports hopes to have its best season since its inaugural season in 2009.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR. This article has been written in memory of all of those effected by the Newtown, CT massacre. The events which occurred make those fortunate enough such as myself to be even more thankful than we already are for each moment we have in life.