Owners - Kyle and Richard Petty
Manufacturer - Dodge
Cars and Drivers
No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker
The 2007 season was one of consistency for the No. 43 car and driver Bobby Labonte. The No. 43 car earned three top 10s and finished 18th in the final points standings on the strength of a 22.2 average finish. That was buoyed by three top 10s and only three DNFs - one for running out of gas at Infineon Raceway and two for accidents. The No. 43 car's results in the Car of Tomorrow, which all teams will use in 2008, were even better: a 21.8 average finish, with two of the team's top 10s.
The No. 43 car began the season with Paul Andrews at crew chief, but he was replaced in August 2007 with Doug Randolph. The 2008 season will see Labonte paired with Jeff Meendering after Randolph left the team for a position with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Meendering moves to the No. 43 car after 13 years with Hendrick Motorsports, serving most recently as car chief for Jeff Gordon. Labonte and Meendering should also benefit from an arrangement with Gillett Evernham Motorsports to provide technical and engineering assistance.
No. 45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil
The 2007 season saw the No. 45 car and driver Kyle Petty put forth a total team effort to stay in the top 35 in owners points. The team was able to accomplish this despite using four different drivers over the course of the season. Petty drove the car in 29 events, earning a team-high third at Lowe's Motor Speedway for the team's only top-10 finish. Other drivers of the car included: Chad McCumbee (two events), John Andretti (four events) and Kenny Wallace (one event).
Petty stepped down as driver of the No. 45 car to join the broadcast booth for the five events TNT aired from mid-June to mid-July and again in early August. He chose to do so after he broke his right hand at Watkins Glen International following an incident on the 69th lap, when he punched a door inside his hauler. In all the four drivers combined for one top 10 and an average finish of 30th to finish 35th in Nextel (now Sprint) Cup points while recording only five DNFs. This team's Car of Tomorrow results weren't much better, with no top 10s and a high finish of 20th (Bristol Motor Speedway).
Crew chief Bill Wilburn will return to his duties on the No. 45 car in 2008, and Petty will step down in midseason to once again work the broadcast booth for TNT. Possible replacement drivers include McCumbee and Andretti.
Equipment and Resources
The storied Petty Enterprises team has undergone several changes since 2007 in its quest to return to the top of NASCAR. The team, one of the originals in the sanctioning body, boasts 268 wins and 10 championships since NASCAR's inception but hasn't won since 1999. Petty Enterprises moved its operation from its longtime home in Level Cross, N.C., during the offseason to its new facility, formerly the home of Robert Yates Racing, in Mooresville, N.C. The move was made more to attract motor sports talent that seemingly wasn't inclined to a join a racing team based in Level Cross, an area seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Petty Enterprises wanted to be able to attract talented individuals as well as sponsors, and the former RYR location gives them a better shot.
Petty Enterprises continues a restructuring that began with the 2006 hiring of past champion Labonte, former Jeff Gordon crew chief Robbie Loomis (vice president of racing operations) and, most recently, Meendering. With an agreement and possible merger with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, the team's confidence has certainly grown. Labonte is signed for the 2008 season but was once rumored to be Richard Childress Racing's top choice for a new team it's adding in 2009. In the meantime, Petty Enterprises' hopes for 2008 will likely once again rest on Labonte and the No. 43 car.
About Fred Moore
Moore has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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