Petty Enterprises' promising day ends on down note
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- If the Petty Enterprises team had any luck on Sunday at the Daytona 500, it was all bad.
The promising start by Kyle Petty turned sour when he was collected by Carl Edwards in a chain reaction set off when Dale Jarrett tapped Jeff Green on Lap 79.
Bobby Labonte, driving the Petty team flagship No. 43, finished 35th after getting caught in an accident on the 197th lap, the one that forced the race to finish on a green-white-checkered finish on Lap 203. He was running in the top 10 at the midpoint of the race.
J.J. Yeley and Joe Nemechek also took some damage in the Petty fracas, but no one was as sorry as Edwards, who was forced out of the race.
"I saw Green get turned around there in the Best Buy car and I just have to apologize to Petty Enterprises and everybody on the [Petty] car," Edwards said. "I thought Green flipped over or something because we went in the smoke, so I just dove to the bottom and Kyle came down.
"I should have been more worried about stopping my car than people from behind running into me and I ended up being the guy that got Kyle. It's a terrible day."
Petty, who finished 30 laps down in 39th place after getting his crew to fix his Dodge, certainly wasn't blaming Edwards, but he seemed a little steamed.
Somebody ran over Jeff Green," he said. "That got it started. It was a typical race at a place like this where you're looking out the front of the windshield and somebody runs into you from behind.
"There's nothing they could do, either, so it's something where a bunch of innocent people get caught up in something that's not of their making and it knocked a few of us out."
-- K. Lee Davis
Kirk Shelmerdine's search for a primary sponsor came up empty.
The 47-year-old, who was the crew chief for four of the seven Cup championships won by Dale Earnhardt Sr., is seen as a low-budget field filler. He only has a handful of small sponsorship deals, including an electrical company, an oil company and a Native American gambling outfit.
Heather MacKenzie, president of MLF Sports, recently started representing Shelmerdine and searching for potential marketing opportunities and said sponsoring the car is the cheapest option for a company that wants to be involved in the Nextel Cup.
"He has made it this far with nothing," MacKenzie told ESPN.com's Darren Rovell earlier in the week. "What we're really looking for is to use this to get us a primary sponsor for the whole season."
Shelmerdine said few big-time sponsors have shown interest.
He didn't have a pit crew as of Saturday night. He put one together before the race, but to add insult to injury, they got him penalized on the first caution for jumping the wall to work on the car earlier than allowed. It didn't sem to faze him, since he still ended up 20th, better than 23 other cars in the field.
"There were 58 cars here [attempting to qualify], so I guess we had one-in-58 odds, but really it was a lot taller than that," Shelmerdine said. "Really, you don't have a prayer. A combination of everything did it for us."
-- Staff and The Associated Press
Jeff Green's race hardly got started before he needed to get back to the pits.
Green's left-rear tire lost its tread on the first lap, forcing him in for a quick change.
It put him a lap down with two officially showing on the board.
But he got that lap back -- becoming the race's first "Lucky Dog" when the first caution flew on Lap 16.
-- K. Lee Davis
Tonight Show host Jay Leno is a noted car and motorcycle nut, but even he got charged up about driving the official pace car for the Daytona 500, his second time to do so.
"It is fun going into the 33-degree banking, you don't get to do that in real life unless you're going off the road," Leno said. "So I have to go 'Oh, ah, 33,' then I have gone [to] 180 [degrees] and flipped over. This is the only time you get to go 33 and come back again."
And don't get him started on the "drivers as athletes" debate.
"A lot of times, people who don't really know cars don't really look at race car drivers as athletes," he said. "You don't realize how good they are until you get out there. They are only an inch or two apart, and going almost 200 miles an hour. They don't realize how much split-second dexterity is required. It's pretty cool."
And despite a personal car collection approaching 80 cars, Leno isn't interested in joining the ranks of ownership.
"That is a real expensive hobby," Leno said. "I have a big hole that I throw money in now.
"I do a lot of car restoration, which is what I enjoy doing."
-- K. Lee Davis