Inew Hampshire Notebook:/I Friday
July 20, 2001 | 7:00 P.M. EST
Adam Petty, Kyle and Pattie’s oldest son, was killed at NHIS last May. Kyle Petty skipped both Winston Cup races here last year but decided to enter the New England 300 this weekend.
Petty said there were three reasons why he came to race: track owners Bob and Gary Bahre, the race fans in New England and to honor Adam.
“Adam would want me and the 45 team to come here and race,” Petty said in a release Friday morning. “As a tribute to Adam, we’ve repainted his race car. We wanted to do something special. We wanted an on-track memorial to him and to those who love him. This isn’t a Sprint car or a Petty Enterprises car or anything like that. For this weekend, this is an Adam car.”
Petty’s No. 45, which usually carries a red and black paint scheme, was all black this weekend, with one silver stripe. Petty was the second car on the track Friday for Winston Cup’s first practice.
“I want the car to speak for itself,” Petty said. “Adam’s car and this statement will be all we have to say this weekend. Patti and I, my mother and father, our entire family and the members of the 45 team would just rather not do any interviews at all this weekend, and we appreciate the media’s understanding.
“The guys at the No. 43 and No. 44 have said they would be glad to talk about their race cars, but they too want to join us in honoring Adam by letting the race car speak for itself.”
As late as this week, Petty had not decided about racing this weekend. He admitted he has “mixed emotions” about returning to New Hampshire.
“This is going to be a pretty tough week for our family, the 45 team and for everyone at Petty Enterprises,” Petty said. “We’re anxious to race and we’re anxious to do well but we are in New Hampshire with mixed emotions.
“I love Adam, we all love Adam, and miss him terribly. Thank you for letting us come back to New Hampshire with such an understanding and loving manner.”
NASCAR Changes Mind: Because NHIS has put a new sealer on its asphalt surface, NASCAR officials will delay its new rule of one lap of qualifying at tracks one mile or longer (except Daytona and Talladega) for one week.
Drivers loudly complained about using one lap at New Hampshire, and NASCAR relented. The sanctioning body began telling teams Friday morning about going back to two laps, spokesman Danielle Humphrey said.
Davis and Weight Out: Davis and Weight Motorsports, which had planned on fielding a Winston Cup team with driver Mark Green beginning with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis early next month, has scrapped those plans due to a lack of sponsorship.
In the process, Green has been released.
“We have decided to pare down our operations in view of the current economic climate until sponsorship is attained,” said team owner Jerry Davis. “This does not take away from our plans to move to Winston Cup. During this period, we plan to rebuild our team as talent that is capable of leading us where we want to be is available.”
The team recently tested at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Green was last on the speed chart among 26 drivers. Davis and Weight had fielded a NASCAR Busch Series team last year with driver Michael Ritch and the early part of this year with Green, but decided after Talladega to make the transition to Winston Cup. The transition won’t be complete until the team can obtain a primary sponsor.
Green is a veteran Busch Series driver with 145 career Busch Series starts.
Martinsville Announces Two Dates: The 2002 Winston Cup schedule is coming together, even though NASCAR has yet to announce it.
Martinsville Speedway released its two dates for next season: April 14 for the Virginia 500 and Oct. 20 for the Old Dominion 500.
“The NASCAR Winston Cup Series has been a part of Martinsville Speedway since the start, and we are proud of that association,” said track president Clay Campbell.
The 2002 season will be the 54th year Martinsville has been holding Cup races, the longest of any track on the schedule. Next year’s dates are each a week later than this year’s race.
“By moving a week further into April, we get away from the chance of cooler temperatures,” Campbell said. “And by going a week later in October, we'll be away from the iffy weather brought about by hurricane season. We'll also be away from some of the really hot fall days.”
High Marks for Sealer: NHIS claimed two driver’s lives last year, as Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin both were killed here. NASCAR mandated restrictor plates for last September’s race, but no new rules were instituted for the New England 300 this weekend.
The track, however, did some work. It milled the surface to smooth out some rough spots and had the same company that worked on Richmond International Raceway seal the 1.058-mile asphalt surface.
“I’ve always hated sealer,” said Mark Martin. “They’ve got it figured out. If you have to seal a race track, this is some good stuff to use, that’s for sure.”
New England 300 pole winner Jeff Gordon also sang the sealer’s praises and expressed hope a second groove can eventually appear here.
“I’m real happy with the sealer,” Gordon said. “The transitions in to the corners are nice and smooth and consistent.
“It does take some time to really work it into the race track and work an outside groove. The characteristics of this race track carry you to the outside. We eventually should be able to get so going out there.
“In the past we haven’t had much of an outside (groove). You could run out there, but to run side-by-side into the corner and off the corner has taken quite a while. I’m hoping with this new sealer, there will be a little bit more grip and we can be a little bit more comfortable out there.”
PPI’s Option Game: PPI Motorsports has picked up its option for driver Ricky Craven for the 2002 season. Craven, 29th in Winston Cup points, will continue in the No. 32 Fords.
“Ricky’s experience and motivation have been a tremendous asset to both the Tide team and the development of our overall racing program,” team owner Cal Wells said. “By renewing our agreement with him now, we bring some consistency to the No. 32 team that will help us move closer to our long-term competition objectives.”
Craven has two top-five finishes this season: a fifth at Rockingham and a fourth at Dover.
“I’m having the time of my life racing with Tide and PPI Motorsports,” Craven said. “We’ve already had some great runs, and it excites me to know that the Tide team has the potential to get the job done on any given weekend. I’m looking forward to taking that momentum into next season.”
Whether or not PPI will have two teams in the near future remains to be seen. McDonald’s, the sponsor of Andy Houston’s No. 96 Ford, will not be on the track for the race at New Hampshire this week nor Pocono (Pa.) next weekend, and the status of the sponsor’s commitment for the rest of the year is currently being discussed by the company and officials at PPI.