ST. LOUIS — The biggest motorsports race in the history of the St. Louis area may still be a few months away, but one of the most well-known names in NASCAR was in town to begin the excitement.
"The King", Richard Petty was in St. Louis Thursday night to meet with World Wide Technology Raceway owner Curtis Francois and the rest of his team.
Petty, of course, is the most decorated racer in the history of NASCAR, winning 200 races, seven Cup Series championships and heading up Richard Petty Motorsports.
NASCAR will make its St. Louis debut on June 5 at World Wide Technology Raceway, and Petty knows this area has been a hotbed for racing talent.
"It really is. We've had a lot of good drivers, mechanics and people... I've had to race against Rusty (Wallace) and a bunch of them boys and they're pretty dadgum tough," Petty told 5 On Your Side's Frank Cusumano Thursday night.
Petty said he's excited for St. Louis to experience the thrill of a NASCAR Cup race.
"It's kind of a section that's always been on NASCAR's radar as far as people coming to the races, and now we're gonna come to them. It's a long time coming," Petty said. "Lots of politics and moving around to get it all to work. We've been here with the Truck Series and the Xfinity Series but this is the first chance the Cup has had a chance to come."
As far as his own legendary career, Petty gave lots of credit to his family and support system around him. He also said that continuing to look forward was a major reason for his success.
"If we go to Daytona and win the race, when we were heading home, me and my crew chief would talk about, 'We gotta go to Wilks-Barre next week or to Rockingham.' Forget what's in the past. You done, done that. Our deal was to go win the next race and that was just our philosophy and it worked for a long time," Petty said.
And when it comes to racers today, does Petty see much of a difference from the NASCAR legends of old?
"They're (racers today) in better shape. Because all of them have a trainer and they work out and do all that kind of stuff. But what NASCAR has done over the years is made the car safer. And I don't know if that gives the driver a little bit more confidence to be a little more careless or whatever," Petty said. "But it's hard to compare what happened 10 or 20 years ago with the talent. Same in football or baseball. Yeah, they're doing great now, but how would they have done under other circumstances and how would those guys back then be now? So there's no comparison."