Martinsville: Joe Nemechek preview

Pete Wright: U.S. Army Crew Member Back Home at Martinsville Speedway MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 13, 2004) -- When Joe Nemechek and the 01 team arrive in Martinsville for this weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race, it will be another homecoming of...

Pete Wright: U.S. Army Crew Member Back Home at Martinsville Speedway

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 13, 2004) -- When Joe Nemechek and the 01 team arrive in Martinsville for this weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race, it will be another homecoming of sorts for Pete Wright, a special member of the Army of One crew.

Wright, the team's co-car chief and gear specialist, grew up in nearby Rocky Mount and fondly calls Martinsville Speedway his home track.

"My daddy (Warren) took me to Martinsville Speedway for my first NASCAR race in 1963," recalled Wright. "I was 10-years-old and remember sitting on the front straightaway. I was cheering for my guy Fred Lorenzen and he ended up winning the race. It was a special feeling then and it continues to be a special feeling every time I return to Martinsville.

"I take my hat off to little Clay (Clay Campbell, track president and grandson of founder Clay Earles). "He's done a lot of hard work with track improvements. He sees how big the sport is growing and he has Martinsville Speedway growing right along with it."

Forty-one years after paying his first visit to the historical short track, Wright will once again return to Martinsville with hopes of spearheading a strong finish for Nemechek, who is 17th in the Nextel Cup driver standings.

"Pete is the kind of person you want on your side," said Nemechek. "His experience and dedication are valuable assets to the U.S. Army/USG team. The beauty of Pete is that when you ask him a question or are looking for a recommendation, you're always going to get an honest answer, whether you like it or not."

Though he was a star center and linebacker on the Franklin County High School football team and teammate of former San Francisco 49er great Dwaine "Pee Wee" Board, it was the roar of engines that captured Wright's main interest.

"God put me here to work on racecars and not to be a pencil pusher or anything else," offered Wright. "I feel fortunate because I made a career out of what I love doing. There are a lot sacrifices when you work in racing and I feel blessed that I have the support from my son Adam and fianc0x00e9e Cindy."

Wright followed his calling and has traveled the NASCAR circuit formore than 30 years. He is in his eighth season with MB2 Motorsports.

"The MB2 team has had its share of adversity," said Wright. "As soon as we felt we had something going, our drivers got hurt. First it was Ernie (Irvan) in 1999 and then Jerry (Nadeau) last year. I still feel we have the talent for success. I like everything I see about our current team and feel Joe (Nemechek) has done a good job for us."

And if anyone should question Wright's opinions, they should take a quick glance at his racing resume.

He has worked with teams that have totaled more than 60 wins and two NASCAR Cup championships. What is equally impressive is the elite list of drivers he has been affiliated with, including former Cup champions Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip and Bill Elliott.

"I've worked for many great people, including the MB2 management, headed by Jay Frye," said Wright. "But to be honest, my hero has always been Junior (Johnson).

"The biggest thrill of my career was the day when Junior came up to me in the spring of 1985 and said, 'I want you to be my jackman. How much money are you making?' I told him the figure and he shot back and said he could beat that. I asked him by how much and he told me he would double it. I told him I'll be there tomorrow. I'll remember that until the day I die."

Wright continues to be one of the best historical storytellers in the NASCAR garage. When he talks, people listen. It's not only out of respect, but for the compelling way he tells a story.

Though he has volumes of stories, one senses that he has not told them all since some probably fall under the category of, "What you see here and what you hear here, let it stay here when you leave here."

For Pete Wright the only thing he wants to see and hear this weekend is the 01 Army Chevy heading to victory lane.

"Nothing would make me happier," said Wright. "There's nothing like a win on your home track. It would make for another great story."

And one that he would proudly and openly tell, especially to his friends and family in Rocky Mount.

-mb2m-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Darrell Waltrip , Joe Nemechek , Clay Campbell , Fred Lorenzen