Owner Andrew Murstein has big plans to restore Richard Petty Motorsports as a NASCAR power.
When Andrew Murstein entered into negotiations to purchase Richard Petty Motorsports from George Gillett in 2010, he didn’t have to look further than the name of the team to come up with a partner. While the President of Medallion Financial Group was eager to become a sports owner after raising $220 million to establish a sports fund in 2008, he didn’t know much about NASCAR.
With that in mind, he invited Richard Petty to New York to chat about it over lunch.
“At first it was honestly hard to focus as the whole restaurant was staring at him,” recalled Murstein. “Most people recognized him immediately and kept interrupting for his autograph. Even the ones that didn’t kept staring and whispering.”
At the end of the day, there was enough time for lunch and serious discussions to carve out an agreement for Murstein, Petty, and DGB Investments to purchase RPM for less than $50 million by assuming the team’s debt. It was in 2008 when Petty Enterprises was sold to a private equity firm called Boston Ventures, a company that eventually merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports.
Petty’s investment earned him a one-third stake in the team and a strong partnership was formed.
“Right from the start I knew he would be a great partner so we shook hands on a deal,” said Murstein who is also the owner of the New York Lizards of Major League Lacrosse. “I could have closed it without him but it was a no-brainer to have him as a partner. His name is on the door and it’s his legacy that I’m trying to preserve. I couldn’t have done it without him.”
And now the objective is to restore RPM to where it belongs as one of the elite teams in NASCAR. This season, the team is comprised of just one automobile as Aric Almirola drives the famous #43 car. There are plans to grow the team down the road and to get RPM back to the sport’s penthouse, but right now the objective is to build the team up slowly even if there might be some hiccups along the way.
Murstein grew up on Long Island as a huge sports fan but NASCAR wasn’t something he generally followed. But now that he owns a racing team, he’s glad he has one of the sport’s biggest names to help in this journey towards success.
“Richard is a national treasure,” said Murstein. “He represents the best in class in several major categories that are important to me. He is the best race car driver ever, the best representative any sport can have, and the best in humility. I’ve watched him not only sit for hours with fans to sign autographs but also talk to them and discuss personal issues. (Petty) is as humble and down to earth as you can get.”
Petty’s experience and expertise is certainly something that Murstein has been able to lean on and tap into, but winning races is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes success can take a while to achieve, but eventually the cream has a way of rising to the top.
Murstein is determined to make that happen with RPM, just like when his late friend George Steinbrenner bought the down on their luck Yankees from CBS in 1973 for just $8.7 million. “The Boss” and his family would go on to preside over seven World Series titles between 1977 and 2009.
“It’s pride on my part and the fact is that he and the sport of NASCAR deserve it,” said Murstein. “To me Major League Baseball is more interesting when the Yankees are in the mix. (George) turned them around and brought them back to their glory days. That’s the goal I have for RPM. We will do the same for RPM.”
Murstein has experienced what it’s like for RPM to win a NASCAR race but he had a taste of what it’s like to win a championship when his Lizards, now a perennial contender, won the Major League Lacrosse Championship in 2015.
That night in Georgia, Murstein held that trophy up high after the Lizards won their 1st title since 2003. The hope is that one day he’ll achieve the same success with RPM and restore the team to its winning ways. It will certainly be a team effort when that happens because Murstein has always been successful in all of his businesses when he’s surrounded himself with successful people.
From a sports perspective, Murstein has worked with baseball great Hank Aaron, football legend Jim Brown, and “The King” who has become an important part of his inner circle, particularly when those competitive juices are running high.
“I get frustrated when we don’t perform well,” said Murstein. “(Petty) has a calming personality and is very wise. He knows good things take time and I believe we will have a lot of good things to show for it over the next several years.”
Through seven races this season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, RPM is ranked 18th with one top ten result, a 4th place finish in the Daytona 500. Almirola also drove the #43 car to a 14th place finish at Las Vegas but the objective is to continue to make improvements and build RPM back into a powerhouse.
The team might be lacking in the win department right now, but there is no lack of optimism that better days are ahead.
“I’m very of confident in that,” said Murstein. “We have been taking two steps forward and one step back though to be honest. With the support of Smithfield and all of our great sponsors I know we will get there.”
Just like George Steinbrenner did with the Yankees and what Jerry Jones did with the Cowboys, Andrew Murstein has big plans to transform Richard Petty Motorsports into a NASCAR powerhouse. Sports leagues and entities need those teams you love and those teams you love to hate.
Murstein has that objective and he has “The King” along for the ride.
“Everyone in the sport wants to see “The King” succeed and stand in victory lane once again,” said Murstein. Every long journey has a first step. My first step was shaking hands with (Petty) at that New York restaurant. The journey to bring RPM back to the top is underway and I will make sure it happens.”
When you think about that meal seven years ago in New York City, how can you not label anything but a “King” sized lunch?