BUSCH: Adam Petty To Debut at Gateway

Adam Petty set for NASCAR Busch Series debut By Dave Rodman CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 7, 1998) What has been a snowball's mad-dash down a mountainside for fourth generation stock car racer Adam Petty will really pick up steam when the 18-year-old...

Adam Petty set for NASCAR Busch Series debut By Dave Rodman

CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 7, 1998) What has been a snowball's mad-dash down a mountainside for fourth generation stock car racer Adam Petty will really pick up steam when the 18-year-old son of NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Kyle Petty attempts to makes his NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division debut on Oct. 18.

Petty, who burst out of the NASCAR Late Model Stock Car ranks to score 1998 victories in the competitive American Speed Association (ASA) Late Model series and the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series, will drive a No. 22 Spree Chevrolet prepared by ST Motorsports in the Carquest Auto Parts 250 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

Tad Geschickter's ST Motorsports team, which has primarily run NASCAR Winston Cup Series regular Robert Pressley in its No. 59 Kingsford/Matchlight Chevrolet this season, will pair Petty with ASA foe Jimmie Johnson at Gateway, since Pressley will be in Daytona Beach, Fla., competing in the postponed Pepsi 400.

The Carquest 250 would be the second series start this year in the No. 59 car for Johnson, who is an ASA rookie this season.

Adam Petty, reached on his way to Talladega, Ala., to compete in Saturday's Winn-Dixie 300 ARCA event, seemingly had still not come down to earth since winning the EasyCare Certified 100 ARCA race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sept. 30, but he pumped up a few notches more when he talked about following his great grandfather, Lee Petty; grandfather Richard Petty; and his father into the major leagues of NASCAR racing.

"I mean, it's been a great year," Adam Petty said. "Running ASA we learned a ton, set on a couple poles and won at I-70 (Speedway outside Kansas City, Mo.). Then, to win the ARCA race at Charlotte was just unbelievable ..."

Petty said he had tested an ST Motorsports car at Gateway the week before the run at Charlotte and pronounced himself ready for his hoped-for debut.

"We run pretty good at the test session and I'm confident the team will put a great car up under me," Petty said, before proving why he might be achieving success in the face of his lack of years in the sport. "I'm not going there to try to win -- I think that's about out of the question -- but I want to run as many laps as I can ... to run with the guys in that series and learn all I can from them. The big thing is I just want to keep all the fenders on the car and ride as many laps as I can."

To achieve what he has, Petty is undoubtedly imbued with a good supply of confidence, but it's refreshing that he has not "stretched his hat size" after his extraordinary start in a tough business.

"The good Lord has blessed with good opportunities and I have managed to excel in them," Petty said. Although he has crept up on the NASCAR community, to an extent, he said there was no question his father, who often portrays a happy-go-lucky if not nonsensical front in the garage area was largely responsible for his rapid rise.

"He has done more for me than I can tell you on the phone," Adam Petty said. "He's always had a ton of input into my racing -- he's helped me all my life. When I was six years old racing in go-karts I wouldn't have done that if he hadn't bought me the go-kart. I wouldn't have been where I'm at without him ...

"I kind of tell everybody it's like Matt Kenseth is Mark Martin's protegee and he does what Mark tells him to do ... Well, I do whatever my dad tells me to do, and I know he's leading me in the right direction, like Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s dad has helped him a ton. I can't tell you how much I appreciate everything he's (Kyle) done."

Kyle Petty didn't even realize what he'd done when he "loaned" a PE2 crewman to his son's NASCAR Late Model Stock Car operation last season, but it has paid off and Adam hopes it will continue.

He said Lance Deiters, an Illinois native and a member of his father's crew who tended his Late Models last season, despite having to work full days in the PE2 shop, then drive an hour for the "extra experience," would crew chief the ST Motorsports car at Gateway. He also ran the pits in his winning Charlotte effort.

"Lance worked on my Late Model Stock Car from about halfway through last year and I'll tell you, you could see results right away when he started to work with us," young Petty said of the man who will also lead his ARCA effort this weekend. "He's a good people person and there's no question he knows a lot about race cars. He's been real dedicated to my team and really, we've been a perfect match. We communicate real well ..."

And he couldn't downplay what that means when he's dealing with all the gremlins an 18-year-old mind can dream up when he's racing in shark-filled waters.

"I didn't think I could win the race at Charlotte, even though everyone kept telling me I could," he said. "I mean, here you are, 18 years old and I'm running against guys like Frank Kimmel, who had won nine races this season. It was a big confidence builder, especially since it was the first race I had won since my ASA crew chief was killed ... it really meant a lot and eased my mind an awful lot."

Now, the Pettys have to decide what the remainder of the 1998 season will hold and if he'll decide to make a full-blown run at the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title in 1999. Adam Petty seemed to indicate that was the plan.

"Gateway was the place that my dad decided we would run next, but what it came down to was there was only five races left in the season," Adam said. "NASCAR wants to watch you in at least three races before you can run the (season) opener next year at Daytona, but we haven't decided yet where the others will be."

Right now, he's looking forward to Gateway, which he hopes will open the door to a future in NASCAR.

"It's a tough place to get around, especially getting through Turn 1, and it's gonna be tough to pass," he said, "but I'm looking forward to it."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Adam Petty , Kyle Petty , Robert Pressley , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Lee Petty