Thad Moffitt’s oval-track resume is slim, showing only 53 career starts across four series.
He’s done relatively well in 45 ARCA starts, with nine top-5 finishes, 26 top-10 finishes, and season-ending points finishes of ninth in 2020 and fourth in 2021.
Moffitt comes from good stock, so it’s not surprising he knows how to handle the pressure of being “The King’s” grandson.
It’s been 16 years since a Petty was a serious, full-schedule regular in any NASCAR series. Team patriarch Lee raced 1949-1964; his son, Richard, raced 1958-1992; his son, Kyle, raced 1979-2008; and his son, Adam, was early into a promising career when he died in a 2000 Xfinity Series crash in New Hampshire.
Combined, those four Pettys from Level Cross, N.C. started 2,441 Cup Series races. They won 262 of them, earned 10 Cup championships, and picked up 13 Most Popular Driver awards. For decades, it just didn’t feel like a real NASCAR race unless a Petty was on the grid
The legendary family will return next year, when Thad Moffitt, one of Richard’s grandsons, runs the full 23-race NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Oklahoma-based businessman Lane Moore. NASCAR veteran Doug George will crew chief the No. 46 Chevrolet Silverado that will have primary backing from Customers Bank and a technical alliance with long-time Truck Series owner Al Niece of Niece Motorsports.
Moffitt, an accomplished road racer, is the son of Stephen Moffitt and Rebecca Petty Moffit, the youngest daughter of Richard and his late wife, Linda. In addition to Craftsman, the 23-year-old will make a handful of starts in the TA2 class in the Pirelli-backed Trans-Am Series, where he made 13 starts last season.
Understandably, he was almost speechless when the deal officially came together recently after several months of back-and-forth. The announcement came on Dec. 9 at the historic Petty Garage in Level Cross, near the same building where the family got its NASCAR start in 1949.
“I almost wanted to cry tears of joy,” Moffitt said, “because this is the kind of opportunity I’ve wanted since I was 17 (and decided racing was his calling). I’m 23 now, so working six years for something like this … well, it’s hard to put into words how I felt when all the paperwork was done and everybody had signed off on everything. Once I got back from meeting with Lane at Bristol (in September), I told my father, ‘This is it. We have to make this work out. This is what I’ve always been looking for, a chance to go full-schedule in a NASCAR series.’ I’d heard big-sponsor promises before, but this was the one I wanted.”
Moffitt comes from good stock, so it’s not surprising he knows how to handle the pressure of being “The King’s” grandson. After all, he and his father and mother have been there, through the good and bad days of what was once stock car racing’s most glorious franchise. Petty Enterprises will never be what it was (Richard is 86, but in reasonably sound health) and the younger Moffitt has no recollection of those days.
“For me, from go-karts right up to Late Models and Trans-Am and ARCA and Trucks, I’ve always been seen as Richard Petty’s grandson,” he said. “The pressure is there and it’s always been there, and it’ll probably always be there. That’s why I’ve tried to learn to always do things my way.
“I’ve learned to embrace the pressure. I know from precedence that there are things I will always have to do (as Richard’s grandson). That’s one reason we chose number 46 for the truck. I couldn’t relate to the family’s other numbers (ranging from Lee’s 42 to Adam’s 45), but I can relate to this one because it’s mine.”
The Moffitt/Moore pairing began in the summer, when a member of Moore’s marketing staff was chatting with a member of the Pettys’ marketing staff. Moore is a long-time NASCAR fan whose Oklahoma-based retail grocery business was good enough so he could take time off (in his words) “to have some fun.” In the meantime, his son, Logan, and daughter-in-law, Angela are running the business.
“This has been something I’ve been thinking about working toward all my life,” Lane Moore said. “It’s sort of surreal to be here because I grew up watching the Pettys race. I never would have imagined that I’d ever be partners with them in a team. I’m still pinching myself to make sure it’s true. The marketing connection got us together, then I spent a weekend with Thad at a Trans-Am race.
“I was really impressed with everything about him. I enjoyed my time with the family; they’re all great people. And Thad is a great kid and a good spokesman. He’s so genuine. As they say, ‘one thing led to another’ and here we are.”
George’s resume dating to 1999 shows 368 entries spread among NASCAR’s three series, plus a handful of entries in ARCA and K&N. He’s credited with 36 Craftsman Series top-5 finishes with 15 drivers, among them Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Ron Hornaday Jr., Grant Enfinger, and the late John Andretti. He won twice with Kyle Busch in the spring of 2009, at Auto Club Speedway and the next weekend at Atlanta.
He's worked with several dozen drivers—current and future Hall of Famers, in fact—so he’s mindful of overblown expectations. “To a point, it’s way too early to think about goals,” George said. “I think the potential is there and we’ll have good equipment, but I have to learn about what he wants in the truck and he has to learn what I can do with the truck.
“Really, we have to learn about each other, to learn to communicate because it’s so difficult to find the right chemistry in racing. We’ll work closely with Niece Motorsports. They won four Craftsman races last year (all with Carson Hocevar) and their books are all up and current and available to us. I think Thad’s got the talent; it’s just a matter of us using a good foundation and putting it all together.”
Moffitt’s oval-track resume is slim, showing only 53 career starts across four series. He’s done relatively well in 45 ARCA starts, with nine top-5 finishes, 26 top-10 finishes, and season-ending points finishes of ninth in 2020 and fourth in 2021. His Craftsman finishes in 2022 were less impressive: 18th, 29th, 32nd, and 31st. He was decent in his four Menard East and West starts.
He spent last season with co-owners Scott Lagasse and Scott Lagasse Jr. in Trans-Am. He acquitted himself well in his No. 43 Chevrolet: second in the mid-summer street race in Detroit, then consecutive top-10s at Road America, the downtown Nashville street race, Watkins Glen, and St. Louis. Only a late-race incident at Virginia International Raceway kept him from a sixth consecutive solid finish. He finished the season seventh in TA2 points and second in Rookie of the Year standings.
Moffitt-to-Craftsman is the first act in the Petty family’s year-long celebration of its 75 years in NASCAR. Lee competed in the first official Cup Series race in 1949 and remained a steady fixture until injuries forced him to retire in 1964. Richard followed with 200 victories, then Kyle, and then, sadly, Adam, before he even had a chance.
Now it’s Thad’s time to carry to torch.