Petty Won't Race in The Winston

Friday, May 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Still mourning the death of his son, Kyle Petty won't be trying to make the field for The Winston for the first time in his career.

Petty pulled out of Saturday's all-star event, as well as next week's Coca-Cola 600, while he and his family grieve for 19-year-old Adam, killed May 12 when he crashed during practice for the Busch 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway. His funeral was Monday.

The Petty family released a statement Thursday thanking fans for their support.

``We are truly grateful for the outpouring of support, prayers and love we have received over the past few days,'' the statement said.

``This is a very difficult time for all of us, but we so appreciate the way our friends and fans from all over the world have expressed their love for Adam. We thank each and every one of you.''

Crew chief Bobby Leslie said Kyle Petty was not up to racing.

``You need someone with a great deal of talent, experience and focus to be successful at Charlotte,'' Leslie said. ``Kyle Petty certainly has the talent and experience, but I believe he realizes focus is just going to be difficult for a while.''

The Winston is a 70-lap race run in three segments, culminating in a 10-lap final dash for a $500,000 first prize. The field is set according to criteria for qualifying at least 20 drivers.

Those earning automatic eligibility are drivers and car owners who have won races in the current and preceding years; active drivers who have won a Winston Cup championship; and active drivers not otherwise qualified who have won The Winston in the past five years.

Eighteen drivers met that criteria and determined their starting spots in time trials today.

The qualifying process will begin with a two-tire pit stop rather than the previous four-tire stops the event has required. After a stop, drivers can exit pit road under no speed limit and make three laps around the track. The total elapsed time for the pit stop and the three laps will be used to set the starting grid.

When that's over, the other Winston Cup drivers will compete for two remaining spots in The Winston's field.

Two 25-lap races will be held Friday night to set starting positions for Saturday's 30-lap Winston Open. The winner of that event moves to the main show.

Other cars finishing on the lead lap of The Winston Open will be eligible to run in the 16-lap No Bull Sprint. That winner also moves on to The Winston.

Track president H.A. ``Humpy'' Wheeler, who has correctly predicted the winner of The Winston eight of 12 times, has tabbed Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win Saturday's race.

``Some people may think I'm going way out on a limb and they can hear the chainsaws running,'' Wheeler said. ``But it's a no-holds barred, stand-on-the-gas race that fits perfectly with his mentality and his driving style,''

Earnhardt, the only two-time Winston Cup winner this season, will be making his first appearance in the non-points all-star event.

``I sure hope Humpy is right,'' Earnhardt said. ``I've always loved The Winston — it's a wild event and it would be unbelievable to win it.''