Richard Petty wants to protect racing from the EPA


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Richard Petty is worried about the future of the sport that made him famous.


The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has teamed up with the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) to support a bill to protect the racing car industry from emissions enforcement actions from the EPA. The concern stems from mixed messages the environmental agency has sent in recent years.

The original Clean Air Act did not explicitly exclude race-modified production vehicles from EPA authority, but the agency has allowed professional and amateur racers to operate outside of its regulations since its inception and a 1990 amendment sought to clarify the exemption. A non-binding policy memorandum issued by the EPA in 2020 regarding emissions system tampering appeared to confirm this position, stating that “this policy does not apply to EPA-certified motor vehicles that are converted to a vehicle used only for competitive motorsport, nor are aftermarket parts claimed to be manufactured or sold for that purpose.”

However, in a recent crackdown on several manufacturers and sellers of these parts that were misused by some customers in vehicles driving on the street, the EPA claimed in court that there is no no “exemption” for competition vehicles and that it is a “hypothetical” idea that there is.

“There wouldn’t have been NASCAR or cup racing if that kind of rule had been in effect in 1949,” Petty told Fox News Autos.

The first competitive production cars were modified production vehicles.
(ISC images and archive via Getty Images)

The cars used in NASCAR’s early years were based on road-legal vehicles, much like those used in many racing series today.

“They take a stock car and make it a race car,” Petty said.

Richard Petty appeared exclusively on "The fox garage" to talk about the RPM law.

Richard Petty appeared exclusively on “The Fox Garage” to talk about the RPM Act.
(Fox News Autos)

SEMA represents the aftermarket industry and worked with lawmakers to help draft the Motorsport Protection Recognition Act, or RPM, which would codify an exemption for converted race cars. The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Patrick McHenry and Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and enjoys bipartisan support, was introduced last year but is stalled in both houses. McHenry said he was determined to see the bill passed by the end of this year.

“I’m proud to represent a district with deep ties to motorsport and I understand the vital role the sport plays in supporting local jobs in our area,” McHenry told Fox News Autos. “The RPM Act will help ensure that sports enthusiasts in North Carolina and across the country can continue the centuries-old tradition of modifying production vehicles for competitive racing.”


The EPA did not respond to a request for comment on the RPM law.

SEMA attorney David Goch says recent EPA actions have chilled the $2 billion race car parts industry, much of which is represented by small businesses operating on narrow margins with little legal know-how. He said some are bullied into settlements that can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more, and when one closes it can negatively affect an entire local racing community and its associated businesses.


“It’s kind of like throwing a pebble into a big pond or something. There’s a big ripple in the middle, but it all goes away,” Petty said.

Richard Petty won seven Cup Series championships during his career.

Richard Petty won seven Cup Series championships during his career.
(Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Brent Leivestad is the owner of PFI Speed, a tuning shop in Fort Lupton, Colorado, which was fined $18,000 by the EPA last year for selling a racing part the agency considers as an “emission neutralization device” which is illegal if used by the buyer on the street. Leivestad is fighting against the fast-track regulation that has been proposed, which would also ban the shop from making future changes affecting emissions control systems.

“It would put us out of business,” Leivestad said.

Petty said he’s learned over the years that street-legal cars can’t stand up to the rigors of competition.

“We couldn’t race a production car, it’s just impossible to think about it.”


Petty worries that forcing the issue would make the sport less entertaining, which would reduce the number of spectators spending money at the small local tracks where many pros debut and which are often the biggest attraction at shows. miles around in rural areas.

“I don’t know what they’re trying to prove,” he said.