I was a young Richard Petty fan in 1969 when I heard the news: King Richard had gone Ford.
Those of us who lived and died with every race Petty ran behind the wheel of his electric blue Plymouth felt a jolt that could be easily measured on a Richter scale.
There was no turning back in ’69, Richard Petty had left the building for Mopar fans.
The idea of a blue 43 Ford Torino was brand new to those of us too young to understand that NASCAR was a business and a sport –then and now.
King Richard had to make a business move in his career in 1969 and it meant a shift from a Penta-star to a Blue Oval. Personally I was confused at the time. The man who would be king got there in a Mopar and a Petty Ford seemed like a crazy screwed-up dream to me.
Eventually I would wake up with the sunrise still in the east and Richard Petty still behind the wheel of a Plymouth in 1969. But that is not how it played out for me or the King that season. Number 43 was painted on the door of a blue Torino all through the 1969 NASCAR season and the world was a completely different place for me. And not a good place.
I was forced to choose between Petty and Plymouth that year-tough choices for a kid in junior high who had grown accustomed to the old world of NASCAR. Truthfully I never quite sorted out my inner turmoil between car and driver.
I wanted Petty to win races but not at the expense of a Mopar, so it became a chicken-egg or tree-falls-in-the-forest philosophical debate for me, only with graver implications. That was the 1969 race season for me in a nutshell: a confusing and emotional roller-coaster ride that ran in complete parallel with my adolescence at the time.
Neither was supposed to make sense at the time.
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