Petty signs Grissom for 2000 NCTS ride By Brett Borden

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 15, 1999) He hasn't been around long, but Steve Grissom says he is happy to be a part of the "Petty Kingdom" as driver of the No. 43 Dodge by Petty Dodge Ram in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Veteran NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver and 1993 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion Grissom has been hired by Petty Enterprises to pilot its NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Dodge in 2000, the team announced Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway.

The length and terms of the contract are not disclosed.

"I'm tickled to be here," said Grissom in the Daytona garage area, where the trucks are testing for their season opener at the 2.5-mile trioval on Feb. 18. "Especially with Petty Enterprises. I mean, just to be a part of that is pretty amazing. Our test is going pretty decent for us. We're just kind of getting used to the trucks and what they need here in Daytona and from there making adjustments as necessary."

Grissom says he is committed to his new ride, even though he has been in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series before and his ultimate goal is to return there.

"I'm pretty much going to do the trucks for the year," he said. "I mean, it's kind of like if a better situation were to come along, they said 'if you think you need to do it, go for it.' I'm not really looking for 'just a Winston Cup deal.' There were some opportunities to do some Winston Cup in 2000 and some opportunities to do Busch in 2000.

"The main thing is I feel like this is probably one of the best situations you could be in. A competitive truck, competitive team. Richard Petty Enterprises - I'm not sure how many better deals are out there, regardless what it is.

"I'm excited about this opportunity to drive the Dodge by Petty truck in 2000. Being with Petty Enterprises is an honor, with all the history of success the organization has had over the last 50 years.

"The main thing that I'm excited about is that I'm going to be in a competitive situation. This is a championship caliber team so we definitely have all the things here to accomplish all our goals for 2000."

Through the 1999 season, Grissom has had 136 career NASCAR Winston Cup Series starts with 17 top-10 finishes. His best season came in 1997 when he recorded six top-10s in 31 races, finishing 21st in the final standings. Also, he was runner-up to Jeff Burton in the 1994 NASCAR Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year campaign.

"We're happy to have Steve on board with us," said team owner Richard Petty. "He has won a Busch Series championship and we believe he is the driver to help us step up and win a truck series championship in 2000.

"There has been a trend in the truck series to go to more speedways every year, including us coming to Daytona this upcoming season. Steve is a driver, with his Winston Cup and Busch Series experience, who has been to these tracks and had some success."

Grissom won the season opening NAPA Auto Parts 300 at Daytona in 1996.

"The thing I like the most is that Richard Petty has driven before, he's owned his team, he's pretty sharp," Grissom said. "He knows what's going on."

And Grissom does to. He has more experience at Daytona than most of those in the garage around him. He hopes to use that track experience to make a statement in his debut in the Dodge by Petty Dodge.

"Without a doubt. I'm looking forward to Daytona in 2000," Grissom said. "Looking forward to Homestead the weekend after that. And then Phoenix after that."

The No. 43 Dodge by Petty truck has been involved in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since 1996 with drivers Rich Bickle (1996) and Jimmy Hensley (1997-99). The two accumulated four Bud Poles, two victories by Hensley and 51 top-10 finishes in 102 combined races.

As far as Grissom is concerned, he is a part of this series for well beyond Daytona. And that could lead to wonderful things for both driver and owner.