The "King" is in Indianapolis.
Richard Petty, the man synonymous with NASCAR racing, is at the Indianapolis 500 for the first time as a car owner. Surprising, considering the seven-time winner of the Daytona 500 and seven-time Cup winner never raced an open-wheeled car and only took part in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis as an owner.
But he's here, and plans to stay here and forgo Charlotte and the Coca-Cola 600, also held during the Memorial Day weekend.
"We used to come up here 15-20 years ago with STP," Petty said. "We always came to qualifying, probably for 10 to 12 years I came every qualifying day, however we didn't ever have time to come for the race."
Petty said his first visit to the Brickyard was as a teenager in 1954, but he didn't stay for the race.
During his NASCAR career, Petty was once offered a ride by Andy Granatelli. Petty didn't like the tight confines of an Indy car compared to his roomy stock car.
"I was looking at the care and, you know, the stock car is great big room and stuff," Petty said. "So the stuff the driver down in there and had this little hole where he had the accelerator, a brake and a clutch, and I said no way I can get my 11-and-halfs in there.
"No way man, so I'm out of here and that was about as close as I came to ever getting in an IndyCar."
Petty said as far as the nation's biggest sporting events, the 500 is the only one he hasn't been to. He's been to the Kentucky Derby, the Super Bowl, and World Series, but he said this will be his first 500 on race day.
And for good reason.
He's entering this race as a car owner. Back in April, Petty announced he would enter the Indianapolis 500 with John Andretti, nephew of 1969 winner Mario, as the driver.
Petty's car will be his familiar No. 43 and colored in his "PettyBlue" and "Day-Glo Red" and sponsored by Window World, a North Carolina-based company offices nationwide.
"This is pretty exciting news for all of us," Petty said. "Never did I think I would have the opportunity to be part of the Indianapolis 500."
Petty admitted this would probably be a one-shot deal, but said the circumstances were right and did leave the door open should Andretti win the race. But it's a long-shot.
Andretti's best speed was 222.079 set on Friday, May 8, more than three miles off the top speed, but as Petty would take any good finish in a race that traditionally, the fastest car and driver doesn't always win.
"The big deal is I think that all of us' expectation is go out and put on a decent show and have a good finish at the end of the race," Petty said. "If you go 500 miles and outrun a few people, that makes you feel even better.
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