Richard Petty to return at Richmond, first race since wife Lynda’s death

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According to driver Aric Almirola, team owner Richard Petty is expected to attend Saturday’s NASCAR Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

It will be the first time that Petty has been at a racetrack since the death of his beloved wife Lynda on March 25.

“I think being back at the race track is going to be good for our race team and good for him,” Almirola said of one of the first five inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in a Ford Racing media release. “I think it’ll be good medicine.

“When something like that happens you kind of want to hide a little bit and just get your feelings straight, but he’s been by the shop and been in good spirits and I think he’s doing very well considering.”

Almirola has spent a considerable amount of time with Richard Petty over the last four weeks, trying to keep his spirits up and just being there as more of a friend, rather than just as a driver or team employee.

“We’re looking forward to getting him back at the race track and getting him back into race mode,” Almirola said. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time with him over the last few weeks since Miss Lynda passed, and it’s gonna be great to have our leader back at the race track.

“He’s the name and the face of our company and all the guys on the race team, myself included, look up to him and enjoy having him around at the race track and having him inside the hauler and talking to us after practice and getting his perspective on what he sees with other race cars and with our race cars throughout practice.

“I’m excited about having him back at the race track and, like Trent (crew chief Trent Owens) said, I think it’s going to be good medicine for (Richard).”

Petty, 77, has been slowly preparing himself to return to the racetrack.

“He comes to about 95 percent of the races every year, so for him to take the two or three weeks off that he’s taken, I know he’s itching to get back to the race track,” Almirola said. “He’s been watching the practices and watching qualifying and watching the races and (Petty’s former crew chief and cousin) Dale Inman goes home on Sunday night and gives him the full report on what went down that weekend and how things went.

“He’s still heavily involved and he’s still been paying attention for sure, he just hasn’t been at the race track. He knows everything that’s been going on.”

Lynda and Richard Petty had been married 55 years, since 1958. She passed away at the age of 72 after a lengthy illness.

For a moving tribute to Lynda Petty, click here for a video from our friends at NASCAR.com:

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Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.