Car owner hopes to learn from truck race

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2002

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Andy Petree's racing resume is impressive enough: two NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships as a crew chief and a pair of wins last year as a car owner.

But that's not good enough.

His quest for more answers will take him behind the wheel of a pickup in this Saturday's Advance Auto Parts 250 for the Crafts man Truck Series at the Martins ville Speed way.

Despite spend ing more than 20 years on the sidelines making decisions, in cluding a pair of championship seasons as Dale Earnhardt's crew chief, Petree admits there's a lot he doesn't un derstand about the sport. By driving 250 laps this week, he can learn firsthand about the tricky characteristics of a race car information he hopes will help him make the team better.

''To be honest with you, I don't think there is a car owner or crew chief or car chief or mechanic or whatever in this sport who hasn't either thought they could do it or who didn't want to do it,'' Petree said.

Petree has dabbled in driving duties before. He raced at local tracks in North Carolina several years ago, and he made a single appearance in the ARCA Re/Max Series last season. He insists his flirtation with the fast lane is more than a joyride. It's all part of a learning curve that never ends.

With any kind of luck, Petree may find an edge for his Winston Cup car and driver Bobby Hamilton in the Virginia 500 on Sunday.

Petree will have 250 laps on Saturday to test his ideas and get a better idea of what Hamilton faces every Sunday behind the wheel of his Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

Using support races has become the trend to speed up the information-gathering pro cess on the Winston Cup circuit. Several race teams now field ARCA and Busch Series cars, using those main events as little more than glorified test sessions.

Putting the car owner in the driver's seat is unique. The last time that happened, other than owner/drivers like Brett Bodine, was in 1987 and 1988 when Rick Hendrick made a couple of road course starts. Those races, however, were to satisfy his curiosity, not to compile data.

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