Petty hoping new car helps his race team get ahead of the curve

Dave Ongie • Mar 20, 2007 at 11:12 AM

Kyle Petty wants nothing more than to bring Petty Enterprises back to its glory days and he's counting on the Car of Tomorrow to get there.

After turning the corner and making some progress in 2006, Petty believes the CoT will put everyone on equal footing when the vehicle makes its debut in this Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

But equal footing seems like a step backward after the showing Petty Enterprises had at Bristol last August.

Both the No. 43 and the No. 45 cars were hitting on all cylinders when they arrived for the Sharpie 500.

Petty and Bobby Labonte both qualified in the top 10, with Labonte's Dodge narrowly missing out on the pole position.

But even though Petty and Labonte seemed on the verge of a breakthrough at Bristol, Petty doesn't see the CoT as a setback.

"We did have a great run last August and, if anything, that gives us the confidence that we can go back to Bristol and do it again, no matter what type of race car," Petty said.

And he may have a point - after all, Bristol is still Bristol.

The CoT fared well on the World's Fastest Half-Mile during a two-day test last month, but there is some concern among drivers when it comes to how the new vehicle will hold up over 500 laps of beating and banging.

"A race at Bristol is much different than testing, but we put these cars through a pretty rigorous test up there," Petty said. "I don't think you will see as much of a problem with the splitter as you will the wing.

"Those wings are obviously going to get knocked off in some accidents and you can't get back on the track without one," he noted.

While switching cars may be a headache in the short term, Petty believes his organization's commitment to the CoT will bear fruit.

For now, Petty expects the Food City 500 to be a free-for-all, but he expects all the hard work that Petty Enterprises has put into the CoT will pay off in time.

"It will even the playing field out for a short period of time," Petty said. "Then you will see the teams that really focused on this new program begin to make their way to the front.

"Petty Enterprises has spent a great deal of time on the Car of Tomorrow and we think that we are in great shape to be one of those teams."

As a matter of fact, Petty Enterprises has been working on the CoT so long that Dodge used one of the team's cars as the manufacturer's prototype.

But even though Petty believes his organization is ahead of the curve when it comes to the CoT, his team's success in 2007 still depends heavily on the car of today.

Petty said Dodge has helped a great deal by giving its cars a nose job prior to the 2007 season.

"The new nose is great," Petty said. "We have been competitive everywhere with it.

"As the season goes on and we are able to work with the new nose, I think you will see Petty Enterprises and the rest of the Dodge camp up front and winning races."

While it remains to be seen whether the CoT is the DeLorean that can bring Petty Enterprises "Back to the Future," it's clear that the new vehicle will at least give the organization a fighting chance.

"Everyone is starting from square one," Petty said. "As I said, we have done our homework and we feel like we can come out of the box and be competitive."

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