Richard Petty

NASCAR AMERICA: 1-on-1 with the King – and Hall of Famer – Richard Petty (VIDEO)

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As the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 Induction Ceremony (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) draws closer, some of the sport’s biggest figures are starting to arrive for the occasion.

One of them is seven-time Sprint Cup champion Richard Petty, who was part of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural Class of 2010. That group also included NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and son Bill France Jr., legendary driver and team owner Junior Johnson, and another seven-time Cup champ, Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Being part of that first class remains a major accomplishment in the eyes of The King.

“That was the name of the game with us – if you ever run a race, you have to win it,” Petty said to NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast from the red carpet this evening. “We were fortunate to get in on the first go-round, and that will always be a big plus on my side.”

With 200 Sprint Cup wins on his resume, it was almost a given that Petty would enter the Hall on his first try. But he told Stavast that five years later, he’s still grateful that he doesn’t have to worry about getting in.

“I’m glad I went ahead and got in, and don’t have to go up against some of those guys that are in now,” he said. “It’s gonna be a really good [Class of 2015]. It’s a real versatility deal across the whole board. It shows from NASCAR’s standpoint…all the different scenarios of what it takes to be in the Hall of Fame.”

For more of Petty’s thoughts, check out his full interview above.

Richard Petty Motorsports seeks sponsorship for 26 races for Hornish

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Richard Petty Motorsports official says the team is committed to running Sam Hornish Jr. all season but seeks sponsorship for 26 NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

Co-owner Andrew Murstein will provide sponsorship for some races through his company – Medallion Bank – but Brian Moffitt, chief executive officer of RPM, says the team is looking to find other sponsors.

RPM announced Wednesday that Twisted Tea will be Hornish’s primary sponsor for the Daytona 500 and the July Daytona race. The company will be an associate sponsor the rest of the season.

Moffitt said that Aric Almirola’s No. 43 team – which made the Chase last year – is set with sponsorship from Smithfield, STP, the U.S. Air Force and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and GoBowling.com. Moffitt said the team has had talks with Smithfield about an extension. Smithfield’s contract, which goes through 2016, calls for the company to serve as primary sponsor in 29 races this year and next.

Hornish, who enters his first season with Richard Petty Motorsports, says he’s focused on racing even though sponsorship remains on his car less than a month before the season begins.

“There’s no concern on my mind on whether or not they’re going to go out and do what they said they were going to do this year,’’ Hornish said. “Hopefully, they’re bringing me in for the performance, competition side of it, but I’m also doing everything that I can help them do on the sponsorship side.’’

Despite lacking sponsorship on Hornish’s car, Moffitt said the team hired 35 people and moved back into its former shop in Mooresville, N.C. The team’s affiliation with Roush Fenway Racing continues. Roush Fenway provides Richard Petty Motorsports with chassis. The teams also have a research and development relationship, Moffitt said.

“We’re committed to continuing to grow Richard Petty Motorsports back to a dominant team and with that Andy Murstein and Richard are continuing to invest in the team,’’ Moffitt said. “We believe you need to be a two-car team to be successful in this sport.’’

NASCAR AMERICA: Petty family wins 2014 Persons of the Year award

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Kyle and Richard Petty won the 2014 Persons of the Year award from NASCAR Illustrated in recognition for their charitable work in North Carolina with children who suffer from serious illnesses. The Pettys launched the Victory Junction Gang camp in 2004, 10 year ago, to honor Kyle’s late son Adam.

NBC Sportsworld: Joe Posnanski on the life and times of NASCAR’s King, Richard Petty

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After 200 victories and seven championships, Richard Petty ran his last NASCAR race on November 15, 1992.

More than two decades later, the life of NASCAR’s King is no longer being run at 200 miles per hour. But it’s still very much running along.

Whether it’s meeting his fans at the Petty Museum in North Carolina or helping tend to the Sprint Cup team that bears his name, there’s always something to do.

He’s 77 years old and long removed from the cockpit, but he still can’t stop. And he doesn’t plan to.

As Petty summed up recently for NBCSports.com columnist Joe Posnanski: “Guess I’ll keep moving ’til I drop.”

Petty has seen incredible highs and lows, both byproducts of the racing life. Those moments are chronicled in Posnanski’s latest piece, “Life And Times of the King,” which is now up on NBC Sportsworld, the new home of NBC Sports’ long-form stories and documentaries.

As Petty winds his way through the museum that pays tribute to he and his family’s accomplishments in American motorsports, he tells Posnanski of tales like how he and brother Maurice attempted to pave the garage floor for father Lee when they were pre-teens (“It’s sorta straight if you look at it right,” Petty says); his late wife, Lynda, handling the pressures of the real world so he could focus on his racing; and him dealing with the numerous tragedies that befell him in his career (“You don’t put a question mark where God put a period,” he says while, as Posnanski writes, staring into nothingness).

For every fan of the King and NASCAR history, it’s a must-read.

Jimmie Johnson on Richmond: “I need to figure this place out”

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With three wins on the season, Jimmie Johnson need not worry about the free-for-all that’s to ensue for the final two Chase spots on Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway

But while he says that he’s relaxed going into the Federated Auto Parts 400, he’s particularly focused on trying to recapture his previous form at RIR.

Johnson has won three times on the 3/4-mile oval, including a sweep of the spring and fall events in 2007. But he has not earned a Top-10 result at this track since he finished sixth in the 2012 spring event.

“I would love to win; I’d love to be racing for the win,” said Johnson, who finished 32nd at RIR this past April thanks in part to late-race tire issues. “But this track has been really tough on us for whatever reason. So, I feel like I have much less pressure on myself due to the Chase-side. But a lot more pressure on myself from the personal side. I need to figure this place out.

“There was a point in time when I was competitive here. But of late, this has been one of our worst tracks. So, from my standpoint and the pressure I’m putting on myself, there’s more pressure here than you would ever expect because I just hate having these huge weak spots in the schedule and at certain race tracks.”

Still, Johnson and the 48 camp appear to have recovered from their mid-season slump with back-to-back Top 5s in the last two races at Atlanta and Bristol (both fourths).

The only question is how Johnson will be seeded for the Chase, where he’ll be gunning for a record-tying seventh Sprint Cup championshi.

However, Johnson says he’s not feeling the pressure of pulling even with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr., and won’t feel it until it’s pretty much staring him in the face.

“Right now, it’s an opportunity to win this year’s championship,” he explained. “And it’s kind of been that way for me over the years, even when we had that consecutive streak going [2006-2010]. I didn’t feel the pressure of that streak, and I don’t think I’ll feel the pressure to try to tie our two greats in our sport until it’s right there in front of me.

“Right now, it’s just the championship. If I get to Homestead and have a chance and I’m one of the four – as much as I want to push that out of my mind that I’m racing for history, it will be there and I won’t be able to hide from it at that point.”