Bobby Labonte came to Petty Enterprises to put the famous No. 43 back on top. Two mergers and one recession later, there is no guarantee the King's old ride will be at Daytona.
The place where automakers put their name and logo on cars, teams, drivers and watch as they ride inches apart, hoping to bring glory to the brand and buyers to the lots.
"Win on Sunday; sell on Monday." That was the motto.
Today, NASCAR teams have to face the possibility that the manufacturers may not be there for the Hendricks and Roushs to lean on for factory support.
Sponsors are cutting back as well. Texaco has been a part of NASCAR for years, with names such as Allison, Jarrett, Rudd...gone. Big names such as Ganassi, Earnhardt, Petty, and Evernham all looking to merge just to survive.
With all these obstacles, how can NASCAR fans look to the future with any sense of hope? Because of one reason...
NASCAR is the only major sport in the world that is not about the money. Does it require money? Sure, but the people in the NASCAR world are not driven by money.
This week, Jeff Gordon gladly said he would take a pay cut in order to help out the team. Do you see Kobe Bryant telling the Lakers management to dock his pay to help out the team's books? No way.
NASCAR drivers do what they do because they love it. They would do it for free, and many of them have early in their career.
Racing each week at the local short track out of your own pocket isn't cheap. This kind of commitment is what keep the fans coming and this is the hope and future of NASCAR.
Thank you Jeff Gordon;, you have set the example. Now the rest of the big name drivers need to follow. Let's go racing, boys.