Phoenix II: Kyle Petty preview

Phoenix is fun . . . but challenging' This weekend, Kyle Petty and the ...

Phoenix is fun . . . but challenging'

This weekend, Kyle Petty and the #45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge team head to the one-mile Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway for Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500. The race is the 35th of the 36-race NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule. The track is flat with two very distinct corners and is one of the most unique tracks on the circuit.

Petty, 45, will be making his 748th career start this weekend. He is seventh on the all-time list in NASCAR Cup career starts, and fourth among active drivers. His eight career victories place him 55th on NASCAR's all-time list in Cup wins. One of the most recognizable names in international motorsports, as is his sponsor, Georgia-Pacific, Petty's driving career began with a five-race season in 1979. The native of Level Cross, N.C., has won over $21 million.

The thoughts of Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge driver Kyle Petty heading into Phoenix:

"Phoenix is challenging, but it's a great track to drive. It's a fun track. I think that's a better way to describe Phoenix. It's not like a lot of the other tracks that we race. It's really different. It's flat, and the two turns are so different from each other. Those elements make Phoenix a fun track to drive.

"You have to be really good on both ends of the track to have a good lap, but it's hard to set you car up to do that. The turns are so different that it's tough to find that balance of what works for each one. You just sort of sweep one side, but the other side is pretty tight. You really have to be careful about how you set up your car. You can't just say that you're going to be great in Turn One and give away a little in Turn Three because you end up giving up a ton. That's where the driver aspect comes in.

"The driver has to be up on the wheel every lap, steering and pointing that car in the direction it needs to go. It might be too loose or too tight somewhere, but that's what it takes to compensate for a good handling car everywhere else. You just have to do the best you can. You really try to get the car balanced and neutral. That's the best situation to be in, but it's a lot harder at Phoenix than anywhere else. The shape of Phoenix is really different.

"It's almost like a triangle, but not really. It's an oval of some sort, but I'm not sure in what way. It's just unique, and that's how you describe it. It's tough to say it any other way, but it's still a fun track.

"It's good, and like I said, it's a lot of fun to drive. The driver is making a difference. We've got three or four guys that are going for the championship right now, and I think we'll see these guys put on a great show at Phoenix. I think Tony (Stewart) is a great driver and he's really good at Phoenix. I think Jimmie (Johnson) and his guys can have a good race too. It's going to be a good race.

"We're building up a lot of excitement for Homestead-Miami right now. We're down to the last two races and everything is pretty much shuffled out. We know who is going to have a chance and who is pretty much out of it. Phoenix can juggle it a little bit, but it's really a matter of three or four guys who are hoping for great runs on Sunday. You really don't want to leave Phoenix on a sour note heading to the last race of the season. There will be a lot of eyes on guys like Tony and Jimmie and maybe a few others. It's all about the championship right now for those guys.

"We are just going for it. We're going for the best finish as possible. This Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge team has really climbed the ladder the past month. We have built some momentum and have had good runs. That helps as we build for next season. A good run at Phoenix will continue that momentum. That's our goal this weekend."


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kyle Petty