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.

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”