California Speedway names Richard Petty Honorary Grand Marshal

Seven-Time NASCAR Champion Richard Petty To Serve as Honorary Grand Marshal at California Speedway FONTANA, Calif. (August 26, 2004)-California Speedway announced today that seven-time NASCAR Champion Richard Petty will serve as Honorary Grand...

Seven-Time NASCAR Champion Richard Petty To Serve as Honorary Grand Marshal at California Speedway

FONTANA, Calif. (August 26, 2004)-California Speedway announced today that seven-time NASCAR Champion Richard Petty will serve as Honorary Grand Marshal for the Inaugural "Finish Under the Lights" Pop Secret 500 on September 5.

"We are thrilled that such a prominent NASCAR figure will serve as Grand Marshal during our Inaugural Pop Secret 500 event," California Speedway President Bill Miller said. "Richard Petty's name is synonymous with NASCAR racing. His presence as the Grand Marshal elevates the magnitude of this Inaugural event at California Speedway."

Petty's NASCAR career spans over three decades and he holds all-time records for most career wins (200), poles (127), wins in a season (27 in 1967), consecutive wins (10 in 1967) and starts (1,185). Petty, 67, was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1997. He has also been named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers.

Warmly referred to as "The King," Petty is one of the most dominant NASCAR drivers to ever compete in California. He won five races at Riverside International Raceway, his first coming 35 years ago in 1969 (other wins came in 1970, 1972, 1975 and 1977).

Petty rolled off fourth in the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside. He spun off the track twice, although he still led 103 laps - more than anyone else in the 44-car field. Other drivers who led during the race included A.J. Foyt, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Mario Andretti and Cale Yarborough. After several drivers fell out with mechanical woes, and with no full-course caution to slow the action, Petty set a track record, averaging 105.498 mph.

The Inaugural "Finish Under the Lights" Pop Secret 500 joins the Target House 300 NASCAR Busch Series race Labor Day weekend. Tickets for Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series race and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series practice are $40 and $50. Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Pop Secret 500 tickets are $65 and $105. For ticket and event information call 800-944-RACE (7223) or visit the speedway's website at www.californiaspeedway.com.

Here are a few comments from Richard Petty The origins of the sport, and expansion out West:

"NASCAR Cup racing started out as a Southern sport and even though it was a Southern sport we still ventured out to California from time to time and ran some races at Riverside. [Racing in Southern California] was really good from the aspect of expanding NASCAR to the West Coast. And now that they've cut out some races here in North Carolina and one in South Carolina I guess, and we're going to California two times, coming to that particular speedway, I think it's good.

"Our sponsors like Georgia Pacific and General Mills, they love it because they can spend money and get to so many different people. When we go out there we get new fans, we get new publicity and it just makes the sport grow that much more. I'm all for it being a national sport. I came up when it was a Southern sport and I've sort of grown with it over a period of years and I'd like to see it expand."

"For us to grow as a sport we need to come out there [to the West Coast]. In doing it I think it's a plus-plus for NASCAR, a plus for all our fans and definitely a plus for all our sponsors that get us through the races."

About racing in California:

"We'd go to Riverside and I was not a road race driver. Anybody that's ever seen me come through the S's realized that I wasn't a driver for road racing. I think I hit the asphalt about every 1,000 feet. But we were still fortunate to have good cars and we won some races. I always liked Riverside because to me it had long straightaways and so you could have a fast car but then it had a lot of corners in it so the driver could make up some stuff if he got beat down the straightaway. I just always liked it. The fans out there that did come to the races, I mean they were pure racing fans. There were a lot of people that came and there was a lot of interest in California."

-cs-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mario Andretti , Richard Petty , A.J. Foyt , Cale Yarborough