Richard Petty and Tony Stewart to be honored in Victory Lap Tribute at final Nascar Winston Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Jack Roush also to drive "victory laps" in No. 17 DeWalt/Victory Lap Ford prior to race. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov.
Richard Petty and Tony Stewart to be honored in Victory Lap Tribute at
final Nascar Winston Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Jack Roush also to drive "victory laps" in No. 17 DeWalt/Victory Lap Ford prior to race.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 14, 2003) -- The first, current, and last NASCAR Winston Cup Champion will take part in the NASCAR Victory Lap tribute as it makes its final stop of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing era at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Prior to Sunday's Ford 400, seven-time champion Richard Petty, who retired following the 1992 season, will take his first tour around the 1.5-mile track, while the 2002 champion, Tony Stewart, returns to the track where he clinched his first NASCAR Winston Cup title a year ago. Petty, driving a No. 43 Victory Lap Dodge, and Stewart, driving a No. 20 Home Depot/Victory Lap Chevrolet, will lead the field during opening pace laps. Pre-race ceremonies also will include Jack Roush, who owns Matt Kenseth's No. 17 team, driving pace laps in a No. 17 DeWalt/Victory Lap Ford. Kenseth, who clinched his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship last week at Rockingham, officially will be crowned following Sunday's race.
Petty will celebrate one of NASCAR's most legendary careers. His seven championships, which included five in the NASCAR Winston Cup era (1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979), ties Dale Earnhardt for the most in a career, and his 200 career victories include seven Daytona 500 victories, and a dominating season in 1967 which included a NASCAR-record 27 victories. After winning rookie of the year honors in 1959, Petty proved he would become one of NASCAR's finest competitors. He entered 1,185 races, including a streak of 513 consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup races from 1971-1989. Petty became the sport's first million-dollar driver after the Dixie 500 on August 1, 1971 in Atlanta, Ga., a big moment in the sport's history.
Besides being one of NASCAR's finest drivers, "The King" remains a fan favorite. Petty was a nine-time winner of the NASCAR Winston Cup Most Popular Driver Award (1962, 1964, 1968, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978). He won the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) Man of the Year in 1995 for contributions on and off the track, and three years prior in 1992, Petty received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. He remains a permanent fixture at the track, overseeing the development of Petty Enterprises with his son, Kyle. He also is heavily involved with the Victory Junction Gang, the charity of NASCAR formed by Kyle and his wife, Pattie. Richard Petty was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1997 and was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
From the beginning, while wheeling a go-kart at a Westport, Ind., track at age six, Tony Stewart showed if it had four wheels, he would race it. The versatile driver won his first NASCAR Winston Cup Championship in 2002, a season that included three wins and 15 top-five finishes. Stewart showed in his 1999 rookie season that it wouldn't be long before he would be called champion. He won three of the last 10 races, including two of the final three, at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"All of the championships I've been a part of were hard to acquire," said Stewart of his accomplishment. "None of them were easy. They had their unique set of circumstances, obstacles and challenges to overcome. But my heart tells me that this championship -- the [NASCAR] Winston Cup championship -- is my greatest accomplishment in racing."
Stewart has performed very well at Homestead-Miami, including back-to-back wins in the first two races in 1999 and 2000. His 2003 season has been up and down at times, but solid considering his two wins, at Pocono Raceway and Lowe's Motor Speedway, and his solid seventh-place position in the NASCAR Top Ten. While driving and winning everything from go-karts to midgets, from open-wheel to stock cars, Stewart has shown a consistency and versatility that makes him a threat for the win at any given track on any given day.
The NASCAR Victory Lap tribute comes to a close on Sunday, when the final race under the name of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series will take place. The tribute, which has honored R. J. Reynolds and Winston for their 33-year successful partnership with NASCAR, has spotlighted past and active champions at nine events during the second half of the season. Prior to this weekend's events, these drivers have included Rusty Wallace, Alan Kulwicki, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte and Benny Parsons. The Victory Lap tribute makes a fitting close, honoring Petty, the first champion; Stewart, the reigning 2002 champion, and Kenseth, who will serve as the last champion of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series era.