Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
NASCAR Driver Q & A · Thomas Bowles · Tuesday October 13, 2009
It’s been eleven months since we last saw Kyle Petty step behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car, finishing 39th at Phoenix in his 829th (and possibly final) Sprint Cup start. Three months later, he was out of any management role at Petty Enterprises, a merger with Gillett Evernham all but ending his attachment to any particular team … for now.
But one of the sport’s most popular personalities isn’t taking racing retirement lying down. Besides his work on NASCAR.com and as an analyst for TNT’s six-race Cup schedule, Petty’s heart and soul has turned full-time to helping those less fortunate. With the construction of a second Victory Junction camp in Kansas City, he remains at the helm of one of the fastest-growing charities in the country. Going from the four-hour high of speed to the lifetime high of helping children in need, last weekend’s 7th annual Ride to Victory was the latest in a long list of fundraisers that have kept him busier out of the sport than when he was in it.
On the eve of last weekend’s motorcycle ride, Kyle sat down and talked with Tom Bowles about the five-year anniversary of Victory Junction, his love of driving on two wheels instead of four, and whether we’ll see him back behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car anytime soon.
Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com: As somebody that’s been a fan of the sport for years before I covered it, when I think Kyle Petty and motorcycles, I always think about your first ride … the Charity Ride Across America. Can you explain the differences between that and the Ride to Victory?
Kyle Petty: Really, most people when they think of us and they think of the charity rides and the stuff that we do, they think cross country rides. You think of West Coast to East Coast, leaving Fontana or leaving Sonoma (Infineon now). That’s what we’ve done for 15 years, leaving those race tracks, coming back to North Carolina and more recently, coming back to the Victory Junction camp.
But we started the Ride to Victory about seven years ago. It was really the brainchild of Mark Dyer. On the Sundays after the Charlotte race, we just did a local ride. What we would do, we would hang around the race track on Sunday morning and get as many motorcycles together as we could. Race fans in the area would come out… and what we tried to do is we would ride to different race shops. We’ve been to Gibbs Racing, we’ve been to JR Motorsports, and we’d have lunch and do some stuff. And it evolved into what it is now, which is a memorial ride for a friend of ours, Click Baldwin, who was killed last year.
So last year was our first memorial ride for Click Baldwin. He was part of the original charity ride, part of the original Ride To Victory, part of everything. He’s such a huge part of what the charity ride is and what the charity ride continues to be.
What we’re doing this year is pretty cool, ‘cause we’re leaving Gastonia and Statesville Harley-Davidson, Charlotte Harley-Davidson, and a couple of places. We’re going to leave about 9:30 or 10:30 from those locations, and we’re all going to meet up at the Hall of Fame. So we’re going to be some of the first tourists to go through the Hall of Fame. Then, we’re coming over to the Victory Junction camp.
Bowles: Did any celebrities sign on board for this one?
Petty: Well, it’s funny because this ride is a totally different ride than what we try and do otherwise. Our Charity Ride across the country, Herschel Walker rides with us, Davis Love, Nikki Taylor’s gone with us in the past, Steve Park rides with us, Harry Gant rides with us almost every year. And in the past, Tony Stewart’s ridden with us in a day, and I can go back to Geoff Bodine and Michael Waltrip and all those guys that have ridden. Matt Yocum rides with us… you can go back to all the people that people know.
But this ride is a little bit different. This is a day ride, it’s about 100 miles, 120 miles, and this ride is for the friends of Click Baldwin and really to raise funds and awareness for the camp. So we really don’t try to overstress our celebrities on this ride. This is more of what your local ride would be. What anybody’s local ride would be to raise funds for a good cause and for something they feel is important to their community. And these people who come out for this are people that feel like they knew Click. Click was a part of their life, and at the same time they want to help the camp.
Bowles: You’ve always been a motorcycle guy, but I never really knew the story of how you got into motorcycles. Was it the type of thing where you found one hanging around your father’s shop one day and just fell in love with them?
Petty: Well, I grew up around motorcycles. That’s the funny part. I got my first motorcycle right before I started in the first grade. I ended up with a motorcycle instead of a minibike. Everybody had minibikes with the little Briggs and Stratton engines, then I ended up with a motorcycle. So I just rode the motorcycle there, and rode it all through high school. Rode road bikes, rode street bikes, just rode a little bit of everything. And then after I started racing, I just continued to ride.
I tell people all the time I’m not a car guy, I’m a motorcycle guy. Because I don’t think you could have a cooler car growing up than a race car in the shop next to you. Everybody wants to talk about Ferraris and Porsches and all these cool cars that they make, and I’m like, “Man, there’s nothing cooler than a NASCAR.” So I didn’t grow up a car guy, I grew up a motorcycle guy. I think my love of motorcycles started when I was about five years old.
Bowles: What do you look for in a good motorcycle and in the new brands out there right now?
Petty: Well, I’m past [a certain] stage now. It’s funny because we were just talking about the first rides we did cross country 25 years ago. And it was all about the look. You had to look like you were Captain America or Billy or just come off Easy Rider. You just had to look the part until you got out to Oklahoma and it was 15 degrees, and then you didn’t care how you looked. It was all about comfort.
That’s where I’m at in life now. I’ll ride a big bike, I’ll ride the big Harley, but when I look at bikes and stuff I can walk in a bike show and I’ll go straight to the old bikes. The new stuff… I’m impressed with the new stuff and the builders and the technology and some of that. But man, when you go look at a ’48 or ’49 Panhead or look at a ’65, the first year they pit an electric start on a Harley… or you go look at the old BMWs and BSAs…
I’m just an old bike guy. Maybe it’s just because I’ve gotten a little older, but I’m kind of drawn back to the bikes from when I started riding in the mid-‘60s. That type.
Bowles: Do you have a favorite right now that you’re riding?
Petty: I’ve got two favorites right now. I got like a ’54 Panhead engine and I rebuilt it, and I’ve got a ’65 Panhead that’s a stock bike. But I’m working on a project bike right now — it’s going to be my favorite bike until I get another project going.
Bowles: With the country still recovering from an economic downturn, charities easily become the hardest hit from families struggling to donate. How difficult has it been to keep the fundraising momentum going when so many are struggling to put food on the table?
Petty: Well, I think it affects it, obviously. I think it does affect the fundraising process that we go through.
At the same time, this is a strange country. And this country has always been known to help people and to help each other. I don’t care whether you’re in the Southeast or the Northeast or the Midwest or out West — it doesn’t make any difference. I think a lot of times people sit at home and think, “Man, things are tightening up a little bit. They gotta be tightening up for people less fortunate than I am.” People continue to give. And we’ve been very, very blessed because the camp gets the exposure that NASCAR gives it.
There’s also the drivers like Tony Stewart and Michael Waltrip, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch and guys like that who continue to speak about the camp. The companies that they associate with – the Coca-Colas of the world, the Home Depots of the world, the Office Depots of the world, people like that, they continue to help us. And at the same time, their fans… Kevin Harvick’s fans are the greatest fans in the world. Every time Kevin does something [to help], his fans do something.
So, it’s been strange. We kinda decided with Kansas City, in opening that camp out there that we would kind of drag our feet a little bit and slow down because we didn’t want to get into an economic bind. But at the same time, donations have been pretty good. I won’t say they’ve been as good as what we expected, but I think the people and the race fans up there continue to see that there’s less fortunate people than they are in a lot of ways, and they continue to give.
Bowles: If someone’s interested in helping with Victory Junction but doesn’t have the money right now, what are the different ways you can get involved besides just donating?
Petty: Tons of ways. Here’s what I always tell people: first and foremost, say a prayer. That’s the first thing, because that helps and that multiplies millions of times. But it doesn’t have to be financial help. During any given year, we use 150-200 volunteers a week during the 12-14 weeks in the summer. And then the other times, we use 30-40 volunteers. So anybody who has a week or has some time can volunteer.
We also give teddy bears to all the kids that come. We give quilts to all the kids that come. And if you go to the Web site victoryjunction.org, there’s a pattern on how to make the teddy bears and how to do things.
So, we have a lot of people who just sit at home and will sew one bear a month and send it in. That’s 12 bears a year, and that’s huge for us. So I think when you look at it, there’s so many ways and so many things that you can do. It’s not just about reaching in your pocket and writing a check. There’s a lot of other ways.
Bowles: It’s now been over five years since Victory Junction opened. Has it become everything you’ve dreamed it would be?
Petty: More. Patti and I were just talking about this last night. She’s getting ready to give a presentation to a company that we did some stuff with and did a promotion with last year. And we were looking at the numbers from just the first year that we started…
We saw 650 or 660 kids that first year. This year, we’re going to see something like 3,800 kids. So, I mean just in a short 4 or 5 years, the companies like Coca-Cola, the companies like Krispy Kreme that have gotten involved, the kids that have come from all 50 states and five or six foreign countries … when you start looking at that, you think, “My goodness, that’s five years. That’s like building Disneyland and having people show up from all over the world to be there.”
I think that’s the way we look at it. Really, it was a regional camp that turned into a national camp that turned into a national charity.
Bowles: It’s now been almost a full year since we’ve seen you out there in a stock car. With the work you do now, do you feel fulfilled or do you still have the itch every now and then to get back behind the wheel?
Petty: I think you’re always going to have the itch to drive. I tell people all the time, I still think of myself as a driver. I don’t think of myself as not driving. Even though I haven’t driven in a year, if the opportunity came along I’d jump back in a car in a heartbeat. I still think of driving all the time, and I still look at it that way.
At the same time, just as we talked about the economy and other areas – the economy is not great for the sport right now. I think we’re going to see some more contraction this year, with fewer teams coming back next year. I don’t see any new sponsors and anything new on the horizon, which hurts our sport a little bit. We’ve got to go through this growing pain, and we’ve got to go through this downtime. But when you watch racing, and you watch some of these guys, and you watch what goes on out there, you still have that itch. I think everybody … I talked to David Pearson about three years ago doing some stuff. David Pearson’s 71 years old, and he thinks if he got a car, he could still go out there and do it. So I think as a driver, you always believe that.
Bowles: Well it’s interesting you mention contraction, too, as your dad’s involved in a second merger right now with the Petty Enterprises label in less than a year. Do you worry about what’s going on over there, or do you feel like the Petty name is secure in NASCAR for years to come?
Petty: I think the name part is secure. The name recognition, the name Petty: my grandfather was here, my father was here, I was here, Adam came along. I don’t worry about stuff like that.
And I think Richard Petty… if you look at Petty Enterprises, it’s a sign of the times. There’s a company that was on top for so many years that fell almost to the bottom of the heap. Has been bought, has been sold, has been bought, has been sold, has merged … and as you look at it, I think it’s just like Yates and just like some of these other companies and Junior Johnson. If you go back and look at those guys and Bud Moore, the monster teams of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s are no longer here or are here and just a shadow of what they used to be. So, I think that’s just a sign of where the sport is, where the sport’s come from. I don’t think that tells us anything about where it’s going, but I do believe that’s a sign of the ghosts of the sport, I guess.
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