<
>

Richard Petty: Personality a factor

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Richard Petty said the reason Kurt Busch wasn't hired to drive his famous No. 43 was "personality."

"Sponsorships," Petty said during a break in Thursday's test session at Daytona International Speedway. "Nobody at the time wanted to pay the bill for him. That's how simple it was."

Busch, who was released from Penske Racing after a tumultuous 2011 season that led the 2004 Cup champion to seek professional help for anger issues, ultimately signed with Phoenix Racing.

Richard Petty Motorsports signed Aric Almirola from JR Motorsports' Nationwide Series team after AJ Allmendinger left to replace Busch at Penske Racing -- even though RPM executive Robbie Loomis said he would mortgage his house to sign Busch.

Petty said Smithfield Foods, which he introduced Thursday as a primary sponsor for the No. 43 car he drove to a record 200 victories and seven Cup championships, was among those that wouldn't come on board if Busch was involved.

"Everybody has to protect their brand," Petty said. "Smithfield has a pretty laid-back, pretty good down-home persona in the general public. If they had taken him on, it would have changed their ... they just didn't like the personality."

Petty said Best Buy, which left the No. 43 to join Roush Fenway Racing as a sponsor, had the same concern.

"About everybody we talked to said, 'Man, maybe in six months to a year ... maybe we'll talk about it. Right now, he's on the front burner. If we put him on the back burner, yeah, we may sit down and talk to you.' "

Petty didn't rule out revisiting Busch for 2013 if Almirola, who is signed to a one-year deal, doesn't succeed.

"In the future, yeah," he said. "You don't never know."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.