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Petty, Elliott Turn Test Laps at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (May 25, 2004) -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers Kyle Petty and Bill Elliott kicked off a two-day test session on Tuesday at historic Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the 46th annual Pepsi 400 on Saturday night, July 3.

Petty, who won his first career stock car race at the “World Center of Racing” in the 1979 ARCA 200, tested the No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge while Elliott, a two-time Daytona 500 champion and two-time Pepsi 400 winner, shook down a Dodge for Evernham Motorsports.

Bill Elliott
Bill Elliott
Elliott, who is running a limited NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule this season, is uncertain if he’ll compete in this year’s Pepsi 400. Petty is looking forward to his 23rd start in the 160-lap, 400-mile race.

He has been visiting the hallowed grounds of Daytona International Speedway before his first birthday. He has memories of spending the Independence Day holiday at Daytona Beach as both a kid and as a competitor.

“My favorite memories are being about 11 or 12 and getting to come down here and go to a beach,” Petty said. “This was the only place I saw a beach. This is the only race track that’s close to a beach. Just remember that.

Kyle Petty
Kyle Petty
“We would come and stay over (at a hotel) on the beach. The Pearsons would stay there and the Allisons with Davey and Clifford. Donnie (Allison’s) kids and the Jarretts. Everybody kind of stayed at the same hotel so all the kids hung out together.”

Another Pepsi 400 memory that sticks out in Petty’s mind is his father Richard’s 200th NASCAR victory on July 4, 1984 with President Ronald Reagan in attendance. Richard Petty edged rival Cale Yarborough by a few feet to take the white and yellow flag and secure the victory. This year’s Pepsi 400 marks the 20th anniversary of that milestone win.

“When he won his 200th victory, I was in the shower room,” Petty said. “I had blown up with 15 laps to go. I was there and Cale walked in. Cale couldn’t believe it. He parked a lap early. He was mad at himself and mad at everything else. Then I went straight to Victory Lane.

“That was a big celebration for us and our family. All of my sisters were here. All of our family was here. The President was here. It was a big day in NASCAR in general but it was a really big day for the Petty family.”

The Petty family is celebrating another major moment in their history next month with the grand opening of Victory Junction Gang Camp on 72 acres of land in Randleman, N.C.

The mission of The Victory Junction Gang Camp, which is dedicated to the memory of Kyle’s late son Adam, is to enrich the lives of children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses by creating camping experiences that are memorable, exciting, fun, empowering, physically safe and medically sound.

“I knew it would take on a life of its own but it took it on a whole lot sooner than I thought,” Petty said. “Our grand opening is the 15th of June. We’re open to the public for the 16th, 17th and 18th. The kids come in on the 20th. That’s our first group.

“It’s a pretty special place. I can’t describe it. If you want to know what it looks like, go over to DAYTONA USA. It looks like DAYTONA USA. It’s not a typical camp. We call it more of a theme park/camp, more so than some of the other camps that have built.”

Elliott and Petty continue to test at the Speedway on Wednesday. The test session is free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of DAYTONA USA.

Tickets to the Pepsi 400 Weekend are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.


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