Racing: Petty psyched for Indy
By Dan Gelston
The King is coming to Indy.
And Richard Petty is bringing an Andretti along for the ride.
The family names alone fill pages of stock car and IndyCar history books. Now two of the most famous names in auto racing will again be united at one of the sport’s most famous tracks.
For Petty, the driver long synonymous with NASCAR, the Indianapolis 500 offers a whole new kind of racing style and pageantry. More than 50 years after making his NASCAR debut, Petty will be a rookie at next month’s Indianapolis 500, albeit as an owner.
“You’ve got to be there to really appreciate just how big a show it is,” Petty said.
Petty got his first taste last year. The tradition and atmosphere were enough to convince the winningest driver in NASCAR history to put on his sunglasses and black hat and get to work on entering a car in this year’s race.
He’s going with John Andretti behind the wheel. Andretti drove for Petty Enterprises on the Cup circuit and recorded the last win for that team in Martinsville back in 1999. Andretti is the nephew of former 500 winner Mario Andretti and cousin of longtime race regular Michael Andretti.John Andretti was the first driver to compete in the Indy 500 and the Cup’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. IndyCar’s premier race now starts later, making the double an impossibility for drivers. But not for an owner like Petty, who plans to attend the races in Indianapolis and at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
“It’s going to be easier on me than on the driver,” he said.
Petty and Andretti tried to find a sponsorship deal to get them in last year’s 500, but it never materialized. They found a sponsor this year for the No. 43 car that is co-owned with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
“I’d still be at Indy, but now it’s special because I’m going to Indy in the 43 and I’m going to Indy with Richard,” Andretti said. “In my mind, he’s still the biggest name in NASCAR.”
Petty and Andretti both say this isn’t a publicity stunt.
They’re going to the Speedway intending to field a competitive car and go for the win. No Andretti driver has won a race there since Mario in 1969, though Michael Andretti has won as an owner.
“People have seen us together at other places, so they might as well see us in Indy,” John Andretti said. “We’ve been to Indy before together with the roof on, so now we’re going to run the convertible and do it different.”
Petty is calling the run at Indianapolis a “one-shot deal.”
Who knows, though? A Petty-Andretti win, or a more likely a strong run, could give a boost to both their careers and make them want to take the trip to Indy for a regular run each May.
“If you’re going to go,” Petty said, “go for the big show.”
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ó A teenager who was injured during Talladega’s NASCAR race has been released from the hospital.
Blake Bobbitt had reconstructive surgery to repair a broken jaw. She was one of seven fans injured by flying debris Sunday.
Bobbitt was in the second row of the grandstands with her father when the wreck occurred.