DAYTONA BEACH, FLA – Making your NASCAR debut as the member of a legendary NASCAR family is never an easy task – but for Thad Moffitt, debuting in the No. 43 at Daytona is the fulfillment of a childhood dream he grew up around.
Moffitt will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in Friday’s NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona. His debut be the first time in 13 years a Petty family member will start a NASCAR race.
Moffitt will pilot a No. 43 STP Chevrolet Silverado adorned with the colors his grandfather, Richard, sported 30 years ago in his final NASCAR season.
“We got with STP in December last year and this whole idea came about, this is Grandpa’s 30th year since he retired,” Moffitt said, “so for us to run the 1992 throwback scheme with the fire suit, the number, the color scheme and everything is just really special.”
Although Moffitt has never run the Daytona 500, his career began years ago at the 500.
“I decided I wanted to race when I was eight and me and grandpa were walking in a pit road after the 500,” And we had a really good run and I was like, ‘Dude, this could be me someday,’ and grandpa was like, ‘Sure it could’,” Moffitt remembered.
“I think, for the most part, it was really just that like being I never really thought about it,” Moffitt discussed about growing up in the Petty family. “We just went to the races when we were kids like it was just something we did on Sundays and then once I turned on, I was like, ‘Dude, I could drive the 43 one day, that would be cool.'”
Moffitt went to MRO with the likes of Harrison Burton and other racing families’ kids who now are in NASCAR’s top three national series. Like Burton, Moffitt will be making a debutant of sorts in NASCAR, thanks to the RPM-GMS merger and a partnership with Reaume Brothers Racing.
“GMS didn’t really have the resources to fund a third team and the Reaume brothers had some points, so we got with those guys,” Moffitt said, “and GMS is willing to build some of the trucks then the Reaume brothers will field them and take care of them and take me to the racetrack and do all that stuff – so it was really cool.”
Last year, Moffitt drove a No. 46 Ford Fusion to 4th in the ARCA Menards Series points. Moffitt ran 16 of the 20 races – the first 14 races, Milwaukee and Bristol – in a season where he was scheduled to run at least 11 races; earning a best finish of 3rd twice, at Phoenix and Mid-Ohio.
Moffitt felt proud of the Mid-Ohio race but his grandpa was a tougher critic after the race.
“I thought that I ran a really good race, we finished third to tie Gibbs and Austin Hill – two pretty good road course racers – so I thought that we had done good in my second ever road course,” Moffitt recalled, “And grandpa’s like ‘Well, why’d they beat you?’ that was his first comment to me. I think it’s a lot of constructive criticism they give me that made me think more. I think he’s just trying to teach me how to come to those conclusions on my own.”
Growing up around Richard and his uncle Kyle, Moffitt reached out to them for advice and he says they are always only a phone call away to pick their brains about what they did in their career.
Being only a phone call away, Moffitt has heard some interesting stories through the years. He recalled a story Richard told him about a bucket seat he and Dale Inman made out of wood during testing at Daytona.
“Grandpa came in and told Dale that he could run faster if he could hold the car wide open but the G forces were pushing him over in the bench seat. Dale said okay, ‘If you’ll hold it wide open, I can fix that,'”Moffitt said. “So they drove to Lowe’s, bought 2x4s and bolted them into the bench seat so that grandpa would stay in place. I think he said they went like 5 or 6 MPH faster the next day because he could hold it.”
“And now what now to think about where our seats are at now like, this is crazy,” Moffitt remarked. “Like, I don’t even know, I don’t know how we’re still alive, right? Like, racecar drivers back then were just a different breed.”
Moffitt’s slate of NCWTS races will begin at the site of Richard and Dale’s DIY innovation – Daytona – and include races at intermediates and short tracks, including Las Vegas, Atlanta, Martinsville and Knoxville.
Moffitt chalked his expectations up to finishing races, not tearing up equipment and learning as much as he can.
“The truck field’s very, very competitive,” Moffitt noted. “You have former Cup Series drivers that have come down and run Trucks and then you have people that have run trucks their whole life – like Johnny Sauter, Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton. My biggest goal is to come away with a couple of top 5s this year, a couple of top 10s and just be competitive every week to show we belon.g”
Moffitt is also expecting to run at the Charlotte Roval and at Sonoma in TransAm. He is also set to run in the ARCA Menards Series where GMS and Reaume may partner up to field a car for him in some races.