Woody: The King And The King Of Beer
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 firstname.lastname@example.org Comments