There was one thing left to do after making their partnership official.
Maury Gallagher walked off stage at the NASCAR Hall of Fame for another round of photos when given a Charlie One Horse cowboy hat. Gallagher gleefully donned the hat as Richard Petty, who made such a look famous, made his way over to stand alongside the two NASCAR Cup Series cars the two will field beginning in 2022. Here they were for the unveiling of Petty GMS Motorsports, owned and controlled by Gallagher with Petty a stockholder.
Maury Gallagher is ready to work with Richard Petty #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/T0t6DTiNCn
— Kelly Crandall (@KellyCrandall) December 7, 2021
At first glance, these two are an unlikely pairing.
Gallagher, 72, is an airline entrepreneur who will admit auto racing was not on his radar until son Spencer became serious about it. The team originated in Las Vegas before Gallagher realized to do it right, they needed to be in North Carolina, where they’ve been climbing the NASCAR ranks since 2012.
Gallagher is a man team president Mike Beam calls cheap and points to Gallagher’s white New Balance shoes as an example. Not only would some call them “dad shoes,” but they’re what comes up when Googling such a term.
Petty, 84, of course, is the most successful driver in NASCAR history with seven championships and 200 wins. He doesn’t need to be introduced by name because many know him simply as “The King.”
You can’t miss Petty. He is always in his hat, sunglasses, blue jeans, and cowboy boots. Racing was in the Petty family blood from the very beginning.
Somehow, however, this just might work. If nothing else, it’ll be intriguing to watch.
Both men want the same thing: to race and be competitive. Going Cup Series racing is the next step for Gallagher’s group, with those intentions announced in June.
In Petty’s case, he has no plans to leave racing until, in his words, he’s toes up. When Andrew Murstein, the majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, cashed out, Gallagher was a great option for Petty to turn.
“We wanted to work with somebody who knew about racing, wanted to race, wanted to be a winner, wanted to spend the money in the right place,” Petty said. “It took us a little while to make it all work out but … to be able to join two operations. He wins on one scale, we win on another. We put it all together, and all of us win together. It’s one of those deals I think as times change, I have to change. NASCAR changes. It’s a good time to bring in a new partner.”
Gallagher made a smart move keeping Petty involved in both team name, using the Nos. 42 and 43, and making him the face of the organization. Gallagher called him the “top dog.” Petty is an auto racing icon. He’s recognizable and sellable, and Gallagher will embrace the marketing opportunities.
For as big a deal it is for the Gallagher family and his organization to be on the Cup Series roster, this is more about Petty. About this next chapter and iteration of his race team’s legacy.
It’s a smart move by Petty to partner with an operation that has proven it can win in the Truck (including championships) and Xfinity Series and will work to do the same at the sport’s highest level. GMS, led by Beam, knows how to go racing.
Petty has partnered with a group of racers — not investors — who are dedicated to competition, and Petty doesn’t shy away from wanting to be competitive again. This pairing should allow Petty and his people to have more control in accomplishing such.
“The last few years, we’ve had to depend on somebody else’s equipment and then working it up from there,” said Petty. “Now, with our new operation here, we’ve got our own equipment. We’ve got our own factory. We build everything, I guess, except the engines. The competitive part in me and Maury says, ‘OK, this is the way it needs to be.’ I’m just looking forward to being competitive when I go to the race. It’s hard to stay on top of the truck or wherever you’re at and be running 20th or 25th and racing to stay there. We’ve got to be able to take our organization and go a little bit further forward, and I’m looking forward to the progress we can make.”
Petty GMS Motorsports will be housed in the existing Gallagher shop in Statesville, North Carolina. By downsizing to two full-time Camping World Truck Series teams, the addition of two Cup Series cars is not a problem. ECR will supply the engines.
“Maury and them already have so much more equipment than what we had, and that’s just going to put us over the hump,” said Petty. “I don’t think any of us has the idea we’re going to come out and start winning races, but I think we’re going to start further up than we have been in the past. Then it’s going to take us a little while to put it all together, but come back in a year, and we’re going to look at all this a little bit different, and I think we’ll be pretty damn close to winning some races.”
Only time will tell how it pans out for this group. But the infrastructure is there for Petty GMS Motorsports to build a competitive operation over time. And at the end of the day, a relevant Petty is good for the sport.
“Now there’s going to be no excuses; we’re going to have to produce,” said Petty. “And I like that part.”