Kyle Petty Heading to Daytona Prototypes Full Time? UPDATE #2 Kyle Petty took another big step towards racing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and a possible full season in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Sunday, testing the No. 45 Orbit Racing InterMedia BMW Riley at the rechristened Palm Beach International Raceway.
Petty, who tested with the team at Daytona during Pirelli tire testing in October, ran more than 50 laps as he continues to make the adjustment from racing a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock car and the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype. IndyCar Series veteran Darren Manning did the initial installation on the car, with co-drivers Mike Riolo and Leo Hindery Jr. also sharing time at the wheel.
Going fast has not been a problem for Petty, an eight-time winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. Slowing down has been difficult, though.
"Braking has been hard for me," Petty said. "Darren tried teaching me at Daytona until I ran into the tire wall. That was pretty exciting. When I ran a few laps here I told him, first I'm not brave enough, then I get stupid, so I have to back it up and figure out where I need to be, somewhere between ‘stupid' and ‘not brave enough.' Learning the braking is hard."
The car was not damaged when Petty slid into an infield tire barrier during his October test session.
Manning has been very impressed with Petty's progress. Manning did a 1:11.9 setting the car up Sunday morning on the 2.1-mile Palm Beach International layout. Petty ran a lap of 1:12.5 his first time out, and progressed to a best lap of 1:12.1.
"He's getting far too quick, too quickly!" Manning said. "He listens to exactly what he's told, asks the right questions and goes out and does bloody well, and I like it. He worked hard on his braking technique. From the Cup car to this car is a very different technique for him. He understood what I was doing with my braking at Daytona, and he came here and did it right away. He's fast!"
Now, Petty is working on the final details for a move to Grand-Am.
"We're still working on it, and we're closer to getting something together," Petty said. "Hopefully, we'll have something together before long that will give me a job for next year and we can win some races. I'm here at Orbit because of Rodger Hawley, let's be clear about that. I ran a car with Orbit and Leo Hindery two or three times at Daytona. We didn't have the greatest success in the world but we had a lot of fun. I told Rodger back then that if it ever comes to the point when I don't have a Cup ride and I can go and do something different, I want to come here. I think this is the top road racing series in the United States, so I'm stepping from the top stock car series to the top road racing series, the Grand-Am. I'm looking at it as a lateral move to another series where there's a ton of great drivers."
Petty's last victory was in the Rolex Series, when he joined John Andretti in winning the 2001 Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International in an Orbit Porsche GT3R.
"That's hard to believe, isn't it?" Petty said. "My last crash was in Grand-Am, when I ran in into the tire barrier during testing a couple of weeks ago. My last win and my last crash have all been Grand-Am now." Grand-Am10/29/08 Kyle Petty says he "doesn't have a ride," and that it is time to move from NASCAR stock car racing and become a full-time Grand-Am Rolex Series road racer. With no animosity toward Petty Enterprises Inc., Petty is working on a deal to drive the No. 45 Orbit Racing Riley BMW, hinting that his longtime sponsors, Wells Fargo and Coca-Cola, want to go along for the ride.
"When my father (Richard Petty) sold Petty Enterprises to Boston Ventures, they've gone in a different direction," Petty said Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway.
Petty spent the day testing the No. 45 Daytona Prototype, owned by Roger Hawley, over the 3.56-mile road course.
|Kyle Petty and the No. 45 car today in Daytona|
"What might happen, I don't get too excited about that," Hawley said. "I'm glad he made it down today. I'm glad he was fast in the car."
"If he can make (a deal), it would be an honor to have him," he added. "To me, the Petty family is the First Family in racing."
As Hawley indicated, having Petty on his driver roster in '09 is not a done deal, but the popular driver seems highly motivated to become a road-racing regular.
"When I first drove with these guys (Grand-Am) like seven years ago, I told them that when I quit over there (Cup), or if they run me off, this is the place where I would want to come," he said.
Petty, 48, has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series since 1979. About half his 828 career starts have come in PEI cars.
Petty, who is supposed to drive the No. 45 PEI Dodge at Phoenix next weekend, said the race team started by his grandfather Lee Petty in 1949, is currently building for the future.
Chad McCumbee is the heir-apparent to the No. 45 PEI seat.
"To run Kyle Petty in a car, is not preparing for next year," Petty said. "If they called up and said, 'We want Chad to run at Phoenix,' I don't have an issue with that."
Boston Ventures bought a majority interest in PEI earlier this year, turning Richard Petty into a team figurehead. Kyle Petty has no official ties with the company.
"I'm not in the day-to-day running, not involved with any decision process," he said. "When my father sold it, they called it a merger, but Boston Ventures bought the controlling interest."
"I just drive a car," Petty said, later adding, "If they come and say, 'Help us pitch something, no problem. If they want me to run a limited schedule, no problem.
"That would take a back seat to this. Any Cup races would have to fit into my schedule." Daytona Beach News Journal
10/28/08 NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kyle Petty, who was recently put out to pasture by the new owners of the team his grandfather built, Petty Enterprises, came to Daytona on Tuesday to test the No. 45 Orbit Racing InterMedia BMW Riley in preparation for the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona. However, the veteran of nearly 20 seasons at NASCAR's highest level admitted that may only be the beginning of his involvement in the Rolex Series.
|Kyle Petty's NASCAR days appear to be over|
"We're trying to put something together to run not only the 24 Hours, but all year long," Petty said. "Obviously, I'm in a place with the Cup stuff where I don't really have a ride right now. I've always said this is where I want to be. When I came here the first time, I said to run the Grand-Am division would be the next step up. I don't want to go back to Nationwide, I don't want to run the Trucks...This is a step to the top level of road racing."
Also testing the No. 45 were IndyCar Series veteran Darren Manning along with Michael Riolo and Lawrence Stroll.
"It was a lot of fun," Petty said. "It's been probably a couple years since I've driven a DP car. I've driven for (Orbit Racing's) Rodger Hawley before, and these are a good group of guys."
Petty raced three times in the Rolex 24 with Orbit, finishing seventh in 2001, 15th in 2002 and sixth in 2003. His co-drivers in all three races were Leo Hindery - who is set to co-drive in the Rolex 24 - and Peter Baron, who now manages Orbit's Daytona Prototype program. Petty ran several additional Rolex Series races for Orbit, winning the 2001 Bully Hill Vineyards 250 at Watkins Glen International with John Andretti.
"It's nice to get into a car like this that somebody like Darren set up," Petty said. "He's a great road racer - that's his background. I grew up in ovals, and I've got no clue here. Darren is telling me where to brake, and I'm scared to death trying to figure out how to brake."
Now, Petty is contemplating a full-time move to the team.
"Rodger and I have talked numerous times, but the time was wrong for me or the time was wrong for Roger," Petty said. "Hopefully, where Orbit Racing is right now, and where I'm at with my career, hopefully we can put together something and run. Who knows?"