Richard Petty was already "The King" in 1984. Beyond being the sport's most approachable and popular driver, Petty's 198 wins was the most of any driver, by 93 over David Pearson. He was already "The King", but he wanted more. In July of 1984, Petty scored his 200th, most historic, and final, NASCAR victory at Daytona International Speedway.
This September, STP and Aric Almirola will be honoring Petty's record-setting 200th win at the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Sunday, September 3 with the throwback paint scheme mirroring Petty's 1984 STP Pontiac.
"All of the 200 wins were special but the 200th definitely stands out," said Petty. "We needed every win before to get to 200 but to have the President there was pretty special. It was a story book win on the last lap, in Daytona, on the Fourth of July with the President of the United States there. I enjoy seeing the Throwback deals in Darlington, and this a great one to have on our car this year."
The race was historic for a multitude of reasons. Not only was the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, the first acting United States President to attend a NASCAR event, but he also gave the command to start engines from a telephone on Air Force One as it flew over the backstretch of the track. Reagan stayed for the event, greeting Petty in the press box before Victory Lane ceremonies. And, following the race, the President treated drivers and teams to a picnic dinner.
Almirola, who was just under four months old at the time of Petty's 200th win, understands the historic importance of his throwback paint scheme.
"When you think of Richard Petty, one of the first moments you think of is his 200th win at Daytona International Speedway," said Almirola. "It was like a storybook being on the Fourth of July and with President Reagan there. That race is even more special to me with my first Cup Series win coming 30 years later to the weekend in the same Victory Lane. I really enjoy the throwback weekend, and it will be very special to throwback to such a substantial moment in NASCAR history. I always like to have a little fun with it off the track. Although, I'm not sure I'll be able to top the Fu Manchu this year. We'll work on it though."
Beyond the paint scheme, Almirola, his crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, and the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 team will also wear throwback firesuits and uniforms throughout the Bojangles' Southern 500 race weekend.
STP's tribute to Petty's 200th win will extend past the throwback paint scheme. As a combination with Petty's 80th birthday, STP's Director of Marketing Katina Wall, announced at the unveiling that STP will donate engraved benches to each active track where Petty has recorded one of his record-setting wins. The benches will be engraved with Petty's career-wins at each specific track.
"When you look back at the top moments in NASCAR, it would be hard not to put Richard Petty's 200th win at the top of the list," said Wall. "STP's relationship with Richard has now surpassed 46 amazing years. We've been honored to be a part of his career and on the famous No. 43 for so many of NASCAR's important, historic moments.
"Richard has always been about the fans. When we were looking at how to celebrate his birthday, we thought a gift that fans could enjoy and appreciate was appropriate."
Petty's career continued for eight more seasons, encompassing a total of 1,184 career starts. He continues to hold the record of 200 wins. Pearson remains second with 105. Fellow seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is the highest active driver on the all-time win list with 83.
Active tracks where Petty has earned a win and will receive a bench include: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
STP honored its first season with Petty by running a 1972 throwback paint scheme in the inaugural throwback Bojangles' Southern 500 in 2015. Last year, STP and Almirola paid tribute to Petty's record-setting seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship season in 1979.
The 2017 Bojangles' Southern 500 will be broadcast live on NBCSN on Sunday, September 3 at 6 p.m., ET.