No word on the future association with Petty Enterprises and Boston Ventures, although a source tells
NASCAR has not been immune to the worldwide economic downturn, with over 500 jobs already lost due to mergers or teams closing up shop. This closure, however, marks the most high-profile organization to date that's been forced to change course for 2009.
Many of the sport's big-name drivers expressed sadness and surprise at the move.
"They're probably the biggest family name in NASCAR, so it's a huge change in our sport,"
"It's really tough," added
But not everyone was convinced Petty's woes were purely economic. Despite a series-high 268 wins over 60 years of competition, the team is nine years removed from its last win and had just four top 5 finishes in the last seven seasons. Despite hiring household names like 2000 Cup champ
"I think you see a lot of owners who don't keep up with the sport and keep up with the times," said
The team had taken some steps in recent years to step up its level of competition, moving from its longtime home in Level Cross to a shop in Concord, N.C., in 2008 -- just outside the racing hub of Charlotte. Then, in June the company announced investor Boston Ventures had purchased an undisclosed stake in the team, infusing some much-needed cash many thought would allow PE to survive the economic downturn.
Just this week, Petty CEO
Unfortunately, it appears both time and money ran out.
"Once the ball starts rolling down, it's hard to stop it," Burton said, who found himself in a situation with Roush in 2004 where he lacked sponsorship. "Your funding gets less, the willingness of employees becomes less, it's hard to slow that down. Obviously, the Pettys weren't really able to slow that down.
"I really believe when they hired Bobby Labonte, Robbie Loomis, I think they took a step in the right direction. And I think they were rebuilding and getting stronger, but that's come at a time when there's no patience. The economic situation that we're in today, there's just going to be no patience for it. And that's a sad thing."