Buckshot Off Target With Petty

Buckshot Jones has been released from Petty Enterprises’ No. 44 Dodge, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. Jones will be replaced for the rest of the season by Steve Grissom.

Grissom’s first race with the team will be this weekend’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Jones joined the team for the 2001 season as Petty Enterprises expanded to three cars. Kyle Petty took over his late son Adam’s No. 45, while Jones replaced Kyle in the No. 44.

Jones, like the rest of the Petty cars, struggled last year. He failed to qualify for six races, failed to finish 10 of the 30 he did make and didn’t finish in the Top 15 a single time. Jones ended up 41st in the Winston Cup points standings.

Not even the addition of former crew chief and FOX analyst Larry McReynolds for the second half of the season seemed to help.

In 2002, Jones is 35th in the points with a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He failed to qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500 after crashing in one of the qualifying races.

“We have not performed to our expectations, and we felt like it was time to make a change,” Petty said. “Sometimes you change the coach, and sometimes you change the quarterback. This time we decided to shake up the chemistry by changing the quarterback.”

Accidents have been a problem for Jones in his tenure at Petty Enterprises. Seven of his DNFs last year were for crashes, and both of his DNFs in 2002 were for wrecks.

Jones had 17 career Winston Cup starts when he was hired by the Pettys last year. Jones won twice during his Busch Series career and failed in an attempt to move his own team to Winston Cup.

Grissom has been a test driver for the Pettys for more than a year. He drove the No. 43 Dodge in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Petty Enterprises in 2000, compiling six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes.

Grissom also drove the No. 44 Winston Cup car for five races at the end of the 2000 season when Petty moved to Adam’s No. 45 car. But Grissom was the odd man out for 2001, spending time testing and helping develop the Dodge Intrepid.

“I’m excited to get the opportunity to drive the Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge,” Grissom said. “Everyone can see the great strides that Petty Enterprises has made this year. Having the opportunity to assist in the testing and development of these cars means that I know how good they are. The team that Kyle Petty and (general manager) Robin Pemberton have put together is a winning combination. I’m confident that I can come in and work well with the team and that we will have success.”

Grissom has 141 career Winston Cup starts with 17 Top 10s. He was runner-up in the rookie-of-the-year chase in 1994.

Grissom scored 11 victories and the 1993 championship in eight seasons in the Busch Series.

“We believe that Steve, because he’s been around us and has helped us with these cars, can step in and move the Georgia-Pacific team forward,” Petty said. “Because of the way we’ve done our testing with our R&D program, Steve has more laps in some of our cars than I do or John (Andretti) does.

“Ordinarily you’d expect some disruption with a change of drivers, but Steve has worked with the team, and has won a Busch Series championship with crew chief Bryant Frazier, so we expect him to step in and not skip a beat.”

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