Sixth-place run satisfying for Petty By Shawn A. Akers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 1999) Kyle Petty has a lot of history racing in the Daytona 500. Unfortunately for Petty, however, most of it hasn't been all that good. That's what...
Sixth-place run satisfying for Petty By Shawn A. Akers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 1999) Kyle Petty has a lot of history racing in the Daytona 500. Unfortunately for Petty, however, most of it hasn't been all that good.
That's what makes Sunday's sixth-place finish in the 41st annual "Great American Race" at Daytona International Speedway that much more satisfying for the driver of the No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac. It tied his best finish ever in the Daytona 500, another sixth-place effort back in 1992.
Other than that, Petty has not had another top-10 finish in 16 starts. His average finish in the Daytona 500 going into Sunday's event was 23.8.
"We just had a good, good day," said Petty, who struggled to a 30th-place finish in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings a year ago. "This is the same thing as winning for us. I'm not so sure this isn't the best I've ever run down here.
"That's about as good as I've ever run in the 500. To be able to run in competitive style was the deal. No matter where we finished, if we finished 15th or 16th, we were competitive today. We weren't competitive with the first three or four (cars), but I think it shows as a group that Petty Enterprises has turned its speedway program around this year. The last part of last year we struggled on the speedway stuff. It was a great weekend for the Pettys."
Petty's son, Adam, finished in the top-10 in the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National NAPA Auto Parts 300 on Saturday in his first NASCAR Busch Series race ever on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway.
Last year in the restrictor-plate races, Petty finished 11th in the Daytona 500, 38th in the Diehard 500 at Talladega, 20th in the Winston 500 at Talladega, and 22nd in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona.
One thing that has helped the efforts of the No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac team over the winter is the move of their race shop from Concord, N.C., into the Petty Enterprises facility in Randleman, N.C., where the No. 43 STP team is housed.
Another is the addition of Doug Hewitt, a long-time crew chief at Bahari' Racing, as the crew chief of the 44 team. Petty praised Hewitt's decisions on Sunday that helped put Petty where he wanted to be on the race track.
"I think the call Doug made in the pits (on the final pit stop) as far as four tires, as far as two tires, gave us track position and got us what we needed," said Petty, who started Sunday's event from the 24th position. "The crowd, with Keith Almond coming over and working with Rick Mann on the motors amazes me.
"Our motors are a lot better. Our bodies are a lot better. Our pit stops were incredible all day long. We never lost any positions in the pits. We picked up spots in the pits whether we took on two (tires) or four, it didn't make any difference."
Now, the big question is, can Petty continue to build some early-season momentum with a solid finish at Rockingham this Sunday in the Dura-Lube/Kmart 400? He has three career NASCAR Winston Cup victories at North Carolina Speedway, in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
"Everybody likes to talk to me about Rockingham, but that's been 10 years ago," Petty said. "But I think I am going back a little more focused, a little more rejuvenated and I think this team will do it. Robbie (Loomis, crew chief of the 43 Pontiac) and John (Andretti, driver of the 43 Pontiac) had a really good test down there and they came back and we talked about our stuff. Hopefully, we can go back down there and do the same thing."
Source: NASCAR Online