Petty: Little has changed in NASCAR
So Jeff Gordon won 13 races and Mark Martin won seven this season. The biggest winner of them all says nothing has really changed since his heyday.
Richard Petty, who accumulated 200 victories and seven championships in a 35-year career, watched closely as Gordon approached, then matched, his modern-era record for wins in a single season.
Petty, who won as many as 27 races in a season before 1972 -- the year that NASCAR cut back its schedule to no more than 33 races -- set the modern standard of 13 in 1975. Darrell Waltrip won 12 in 1981 and again in 1982, but nobody else came close until Gordon's run this year.
"I did my thing in '75 and he's doing his thing in '98," Petty said of Gordon, who ran his first Winston Cup race in Atlanta in November of 1992, the same day the King drove his last in NASCAR's top series.
"The competition is no different now. The competition is the same from the first race they ever ran or the 10th race or the 100th race. ... Everybody came to try to win. That's what they do today."
Petty said that during his career, which began in 1958, the winners came from a select group and that hasn't changed, either.
"Back in some of my good years, we'd run all year long and there wouldn't be but three or four people that would win races. There were three or four that won all the races and every once in a while someone else would win."
Petty says it's not a case of have and have nots.
"There's just not room for 43 people to all be winners," he said. "It's just like professional football, basketball, golf or whatever. You go through stages where you have the same winners, and some people never win."