TIMMONSVILLE, S.C., Saturday, July 28, 2001 - Indy racer and former Copper World Classic champion Jimmy Kite's excitement of racing a winged-sprint car on pavement for only the third time since 1997 waned after frustrations over series' safety and...
TIMMONSVILLE, S.C., Saturday, July 28, 2001 - Indy racer and former Copper World Classic champion Jimmy Kite's excitement of racing a winged-sprint car on pavement for only the third time since 1997 waned after frustrations over series' safety and rule enforcement came into question surrounding his third-place main event finish. The three-time Indianapolis 500 starter drove the #45 Environmental Protection Associates United Sprint Car Series (USCS) from the inside of row-three to third in the 40-lap main event at Florence Motor Speedway before having the strong run disallowed. The Adam Petty Tribute car was dropped to 15th in the final standings. The event was Kite's second of three USCS races he was scheduled to run over the weekend.
Despite meeting the minimum offset for the left rear tire on all the team's own measuring equipment, including in the hands of USCS executive rule makers, the Stockbridge, Georgia resident was told he was 3/16th of an inch out of regulations.
"We're pretty disappointed," remarked Kite following the disqualification. "We feel that the car is legal and everyone in the garage that talked to us feels the same way. We measured it with our [measuring] tape and it was right on every time. They [USCS inspectors] measured it with our tape and it was fine. They found one tape that said it was off and they went with that tape. We could measure that with every measuring tape in South Carolina that is less than five years old and it would be right on. I guess the series just doesn't want folks coming in here to race if they aren't going to be here every weekend."
Several rule and procedure changes punctuated the weekend leaving Kite and the Tommy Gainey team feeling as if they had a mark on them. "We didn't know until we came down for the green on our qualifying run if we'd take the flag the first time or the second time around," pondered Indianapolis' 1998 "Fastest Rookie." "One guy they'd throw it to on his out lap, the next got it the second time around. Thursday night [held at Greenville-Pickens Speedway] they threw the checkered five laps short of the posted 30-lap main [event] without letting anyone know they were going to do it. Our car was starting to come in and we were closing on them. In one of Friday's heat races the driver starting next to me lost the pin in his left-rear wheel nut. The nut came off and landed right at the pit out for everyone to see and they never threw the red flag to find out who lost it. We go green and the tire flies off right in front of me. After all of that I just don't see a reason to come back and race here."
Kite had planned a third event for Saturday evening at Summerville (S.C.) Speedway but decided against continuing with the USCS. Instead the Tommy Gainey-owned team will return to its North Carolina shop to decide on another winged, 360 cubic-inch sprint car series to participate in.
"I just don't feel safe and they obviously don't like "outsiders,'" said Kite about his decision to forgo the final night of the race weekend. "We'll go find a new place to run the #45 Environmental Protection Associates/ Petty Driving Experience/ Adam Petty Tribute car. I don't think this is the type of place we should be honoring Adam's memory. I feel bad for the fans down at Summerville. We would have been fast and it would have been fun down there. Tommy and I are talking and we'll find some place to go run this car. We aren't looking for any special favors and you get use to them making it tough on you. But add weight to the car, pull a plug wire, whatever, but let me know what I have to work with going in. Don't do it after I am out of the car. That doesn't do the fans or the series any good. I guess it is true that when you put your hand out to shake, you are leaving your chin wide open for a punch."
Kite began racing quarter-midget race cars at the age of eight and worked his way up through mini-sprints, USAC midgets, sprint cars and Silver Bullet cars to the Indy Racing League. He is a five-time national champion in various open-wheel series, has numerous victories and "Rookie of the Year" honors in the 1997 USAC Silver Crown (now Silver Bullet) series. The talented racer gained national exposure and recognition by driving from the back of the field to beat veteran Chuck Gurney on the final turn of the 1997 Silver Crown event during the Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway.