In 2006, Richard Petty said NASCAR wasn’t a sport for women.
The times may be a changin’.
On Tuesday, Andrew Murstein, the majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, said that the company had gotten offers from two major sponsors to start a Nationwide program featuring a female driver. He specifically mentioned IndyCar/ARCA driver Milka Duno, Nationwide/Truck Series driver Jennifer Jo Cobb and Truck Series driver Johanna Long as possibilities to fill the seat. Murstein added that the two sponsors preferred different drivers at this time.
“Richard is very careful of protecting his name and image, so he wants to make sure she’s up for the competition, and that’s what’s being debated amongst us internally,” Murstein said. “It’s one thing to take someone’s money, but you want to get them something for that. So we’re doing an analysis now about whether to start that Nationwide team.”
A Nationwide team may not be the only expansion for Murstein, President of the New York-based Medallion Financial, who celebrated in Victory Lane after driver Marcos Ambrose won the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen Monday. Murstein said he’s received calls from a “couple of substantial net worth people, people who have appreciated what we’ve done so far in our short tenure as owners,” who have interest in investing in the team.
And Tuesday Murstein said he was fielding calls from agents of multiple top-tier free agent drivers and sponsors who were asking whether RPM would start a third Sprint Cup team in 2012. Drivers potentially looking for rides include Mark Martin and Brian Vickers.
“I think the drivers have a mentality that it’s all talk until you actually win,” Murstein said. “Now that [getting the first Sprint Cup win is] behind us, some of the top free agent drivers are pretty interested in driving for RPM.”
Murstein estimated the possibility of starting a third Sprint Cup team at “33 percent,” up from 5 percent the week before. Regardless of whether the Sprint Cup side expands, Murstein is enjoying NASCAR success, even as he took a thinly veiled swipe at Miami Heat star LeBron James while reminiscing about celebrating with Ambrose.
“We just spoke together, one on one. He just thanked me for giving me the opportunity,” Murstein said of Ambrose. “In a lot of professional sports, it’s the other way around. They think they’re doing the owners a favor for giving them their talents, for bringing their talents to South Beach, or something like that.”
Murstein, who made news last year by renewing talk about bringing a NASCAR track to New York, is less focused on that goal, noting that NASCAR isn’t going to take an NYC track seriously until it figures out the land it still owns in Staten Island. Despite the constantly changing ways of RPM, he’s trying to enjoy the moment.
“I celebrated with a big cigar after the race, and I don’t think I do that often enough,” Murstein said of Monday. “I do that when it’s the most meaningful to me, so I’d say it was one of the more rewarding days.”