A new NASCAR season is just around the corner and what a strange one it promises to be.
If you thought Junior leaving his late daddy's team was as unexpected as it could get, think again. This year will begin without the storied Petty race team.
OK, technically the remnants of Petty Enterprises will be there as part of Gillett-Evernham Racing, which absorbed what few Petty assets there were earlier this month. And the storied #43 will still be on the tracks.But it's all just in name and for show.
The 60-year day-to-day involvement of the legendary Petty family is for all intents and purposes gone.
During the brief NASCAR off season there have been more mergers. There likely will be more as the season goes on since the economy's kicking motorsports butts along with those of almost every industry.
The economy is also why it's hard to tell that NASCAR's premier event, the Daytona 500, is just about a month away. Preparations have literally been muted and January is sadly quiet since NASCAR, as a cost-cutting measure, has ended test sessions.
Change, of course, can't be stopped. But change isn't necessarily progress.
More tough, and taxing, times: 2009 is just underway, but already it has been very unkind to historic NASCAR teams.
This month Morgan-McClure Motorsports joined Petty in closing shop. Over its 25 year history, Morgan-McClure won 14 NASCAR top-tier races, including three trips to Victory Circle at Daytona.
But the small-town, family-run team could not keep up with the much richer multi-car teams that grew along with the sport.
And the effort to do so probably led to some of the move that got race team co-owner Larry McClure into trouble with the IRS.
McClure recently agreed to a guilty plea in connection with tax fraud charges. The deal covers five counts, including making false statements to IRS investigators and filing false tax returns in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Details weren't released, but the potential for lengthy jail time and a hefty fine probably figured in McClure's decision. If convicted on all of the charges in the indictments, McClure could have faced up to 115 years in federal prison and $2.75 million in fines.
Personally, I'll find it a much sadder racing season with the Pettys and McClures no longer in the sport.
Crazy Woman Driver says …: OK, I've bemoaned some of the changes that NASCAR is going through right now. Car of Tomorrow, Today, Whatever -- hate it! No more testing -- stinks, both for teams and fans who could see cars run in an alternative setting.
But I have an idea for a change to the sport, so that's different!
Plus, my suggestions for spicing up qualifying is a great one! You can read all about it here.
And you can find links to my previous Crazy Woman Driver columns here.