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Woody: The King And The King Of Beer

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 23 2009
Richard Petty has teamed up with Budweiser, something he would not have done in the past. (RacinToday photo by David Vaughn)

Richard Petty has teamed up with Budweiser, something he would not have done in the past. (RacinToday photo by David Vaughn)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

In 1958 Richard Petty ran his first race, after making his mom a solemn promise:

He would never be associated with alcohol in any way.

Over the decades, as he piled up 200 wins and became the most famous and favored personality the sport has ever known, he kept that promise.

He refused to even allow his cars to carry a tiny Busch or Budweiser decal that would have made them eligible for the Busch Clash/Bud Shootout at Daytona every year.

One of Petty’s drivers, the late Bobby Hamilton, won a pole one year and would have been eligible for the Shootout, except for the fact that his (Petty’s) car didn’t carry the requisite beer decal.

Bobby said he didn’t mind: “I knew Richard’s position on beer when I signed on,” he said. “I admire and respect him for it. My dad was an alcoholic and I support Richard’s stand.”

Fast-forward to last Sunday afternoon at Sonoma, California:

Young racer Kasey Kahne pulled his Budweiser-sponsored car into Victory Lane, and as he hoisted a cold Bud in celebration, he was joined by Petty.

Kahne drives for Richard Petty Motorsports, funded by Budweiser.

The King in bed with Bud – who’d have thought it?

Certainly not my racing buddy Don Christopher, a life-long Richard Petty fan. (I introduced him to Richard many years ago in Daytona and I don’t think Don has washed that hand since.)

Petty’s surprise association with Budweiser didn’t turn Christopher against his boyhood idol, understand – the King is still the king as far as he’s concerned. But it surprised him.

I imagine it surprises a lot of folks who are familiar with Richard’s past hard-line anti-beer stands.

I once asked Petty to explain his no-beer position when he competed in races named after certain brands: the Budweiser 500, Miller 400, etc., accepting their prize money and trophies.

“I don’t have any control over who sponsors the races,” Richard told me, “but I do have control over who sponsors my race car.”

I assume Petty’s explanation of his current Bud relationship is somewhat similar: he doesn’t control who the car’s sponsor is. Budweiser was already aboard when Petty joined the team earlier this year.

Someone else made the deal but the team carries his name: Richard Petty Motorsports. Sponsored by Budweiser.

And the car doesn’t merely carry some tiny decal hidden on the quarter-panel; the entire car is a Budweiser billboard.

Yet Sunday there was Richard, posing in Victory Circle, amid all the Bud banners, the King and the King of Beers.

I’m like Don and all the other gadzillion Richard Petty fans out there – I’m for him beer or no beer.

But his sudsy partnership, after all these years, is indeed sobering.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 23 2009


  • I’m a 30+ year King fan, but he hasn’t always been booze-free on his cars. He ran the Busch pole award sticker in 1993 – the first year after his retirement and when Rick Wilson drove the #44 STP Pontiac. He also had the decal in in 79 or 80 in the early days of the Busch pole award and Busch Clash. And Woodster, I’ve enjoyed your writing over the years, but I’m gonna call foul on your statement that he on he promised Mrs. Elizabeth back in 1958. Back then, corporate sponsors of any sort other than the factories and local businesses were a rarity. As a 21 year old employee of his father, I hardly think he was in the position of saying “absolutely not” to his mama. Nonetheless, it was certainly a surreal moment to see him amongst Bud swag wearing folks and swipping some of Napa’s finest from the trophy goblet.

  • MISSU3 says:

    Circumstances change. With the economy the way it is, there are a lot of strange bedfellows out there. Hope Richards mom forgives him. We’ve lost too many in NASCAR. The King needs to be here.