Petty Returns To Rolex Series
March 23, 2004 | 4:41 P.M. EST
"It's no secret that I love racing in the Rolex Series. I try to do it every chance I get, and with NEXTEL Cup being off that weekend, I jumped at the chance to get back in a sports car," Petty said. "I'm looking forward to running at Phoenix, because in the past I've only been able to race with the Series at Daytona and Watkins Glen. Those tracks have a lot more straightaways and sweeping turns, but Phoenix is much shorter and a lot tighter. It should be a fun track to learn and make things pretty exciting come race time."
Petty kicked off his 2004 racing season by competing in his fifth Rolex 24 At Daytona earlier this year, teaming with famed-actor Paul Newman, Gunnar Jeannette and Michael Brockman in the Gunnar Racing entry. Jeannette and Petty will team back up in the No. 45 Porsche for the Phoenix 250.
Petty is no stranger to the Rolex Sports Car Series, competing in seven races over the last three seasons. He teamed with John Andretti for the GT victory at Watkins Glen International in 2001 and has scored five class podium finishes, including a second-place finish with Jeannette and Newman in the GTS class at Watkins Glen last season.
"I really believe the Grand American Rolex Series is the future of road racing in this country. Their philosophy of cost control and competitive racing is right on target for what North American race fans want to see," said Petty.
"I look at this Series and class of cars as being able to bring a multitude of talented drivers and different mechanics and engine builders all together in one arena. It started slow, but the momentum it now has is tremendous. You're starting see a lot more stock car drivers, IndyCar drivers and other big names in racing run in this Series. Plus, you've got engine builders like Porsche and Robert Yates Racing and guys like that competing against each other on the same playing field. That's something that can't be done anywhere else."
Although Petty spends most his weekends at the wheel of the No. 45 Georgia-Pacific Dodge in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, he always looks forward to getting into a Porsche during a Rolex Series race.
"Stock cars are just so heavy. The power to weight ratio is just so much different than the Porsche. The Rolex Series cars are such agile cars; almost in every class to a tee. They are fun to drive," said Petty. "From a driver's perspective, I don't think I've ever sat in anything that wasn't fun to drive. But these things are a thrill to drive.
"When you get in them, it's like being a kid again. The difference between a Porsche and stock car is that a stock car is like driving your family car. You're out there and you're hammering around in your family car - your family station wagon or family four door. Then all of sudden your father tosses you the keys to his sports car and says go take it around the block. It's totally different. It's still got four wheels, still got a steering wheel and still got an engine, but it's a totally different feel. And I think that's it; when you feel the rush and the thrill that you get from driving."
Petty's No. 45 Porsche is one of 40 race cars on the pre-entry list for the Phoenix 250 announced earlier this week. Tickets to the Phoenix 250, round three of the Rolex Series, are available at www.phoneixraceway.com. The Phoenix 250 will be broadcast LIVE on SPEED Channel, April 10 at 9 p.m. ET.