Richard Petty went back in time Friday – 45 years and 4,000 miles away from Charlotte.
The King, who turns 78 on July 2, made his third visit to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex, England. But it’s not how he got there that’s the story, but what he drove when he showed up.
Petty wowed the 100,000-plus fans who typically show up for the Festival by bringing back his Petty Blue No. 43 1970 Plymouth Superbird.
You know, the famous car with the outrageous rear wing that looked like it was ready to take flight at any moment.
“This is a car that helped bring NASCAR into a new era of racing,” Petty said. “This was the first ‘race car’ and not a ‘stock car’. It looked like a rocket ship and had this big wing … that was my reaction when I first saw it from Plymouth.
“It introduced aerodynamics to the sport and just advanced the sport at that time. It was really ahead of its time back in the early 70’s.”
Petty got back behind the wheel of the Superbird and drove it during the Festival’s noted Hill Climb. It wasn’t so much about winning a race, but once again driving the memorable ‘Bird in style, Petty said.
“It was a lot of fun to get back behind the wheel, but I wasn’t looking to win any race,” Petty said afterward. “I wanted people to see the car and appreciate it. We had a lot of people waving and smiling, so I think they had as much fun as I did.”
Petty, who will remain at the Festival through Sunday, was asked specifically by organizers to bring the Superbird this time, as opposed to the cars he had in his previous two times at Goodwood.
“We came last year and had the ’67 Belvedere, the car we won a bunch of races with,” Petty said. “In 2000, our first year we came, we had the ’72 Dodge Charger, but the Superbird was what they wanted.
“It’s just iconic and probably what a lot of people recognize. The younger generation come up to me and say, ‘Hey, that’s the car that was in the movie, Cars.’ So, it’s a pretty popular car for us and it’s neat to see all the excitement around it.”