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Petty Heads From Carolina To California Team Looking Ahead To New Season This weekend, Kyle Petty and the ...

Petty Heads From Carolina To California
Team Looking Ahead To New Season

This weekend, Kyle Petty and the #45 Wells Fargo Dodge team head to the two-mile California Speedway in Fontana (Calif.) for Sunday's Auto Club 500.

While the Daytona 500 is the year's biggest event, restrictor-plate racing is more of an anomaly. Downforce tracks, like California, make up the majority of the NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule. This makes the Auto Club 500 the first real barometer of what can be expected by each team this season.

Petty will be making his 14th start at the California Speedway this weekend. He has competed in every NEXTEL Cup event at California. Petty has two top-20 finishes at the track, the last coming in the 2005 "spring" race where he also led two laps. He finished 25th in the 2006 Auto Club 500.

Comments from Petty as he prepares for Sunday's Auto Club 500:

The Daytona 500 behind us, is there anything that has jumped out and surprised you thus far into the new season?

"Yea, I don't know. We all knew that with a new manufacturer, and several, new, well-funded teams coming in, that there would be far more cars than spots in the field at each race track. I think that's something that goes in cycles. A few years back, we were all talking small fields. The question was, 'What's NASCAR going to do?' Things like that. It's all a cycle. We're on the up-swing right now. That has made it tough on the competition.

"I would not call it a surprise, but this team has excited me so far. The guys didn't get the finish they worked for at Daytona, but that's behind us. You look at the 35 races ahead. We have a great group of guys led by Billy Wilburn. Billy has everyone focused on California right now.

Dodge has a new nose this year and you have tested it once at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. How do you feel about the chances of the Dodge teams at these intermediate, downforce tracks?

"Well, you have to look at what the engineers and everyone at Dodge has done over the winter. I think those guys worked really, really hard to make all the Dodge teams better. They believe that this new nose, from a performance standpoint, is better. We have had our engineers working hard on our cars. We made improvements in our engineering staff over the winter.

"Everyone is looking for ways to make their cars more comfortable to drive in traffic. At these intermediate tracks, especially California and Las Vegas, you are really hauling the mail when you get down in the corner. You want the car to be stable and 'travel' well through the turn. This new nose definitely helps us."

You have had some good runs at California in the past. Has the track been better with time?

"California was funny. Everyone expected it to provide the same type of racing that we see at Michigan, right out of the box. You can't do that, you can't just carbon copy a race track. Every track is different. If you ask the drivers, they will tell you that California and Michigan are completely different, the only similarity is size and shape."

"But, yea, as the track has cured over time we have seen more side-by-side racing. We put on a good show for the fans out there. The races have been fun to watch and we need to make sure we continue to do that. This track is in an important market for us (Los Angeles) and wee need to continue to connect with the fans. A good race always helps.

-credit: petty racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kyle Petty