Fla.., (Jan. 6, 2000) – Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim haven’t
seen too many teammates with the credentials like Dale Earnhardt and
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt is a seven-time NASCAR Winston
Cup Series champion and the winningest driver at Daytona International
Speedway with 34 victories, including the 1998 Daytona 500.
His son, Earnhardt Jr., is a rising
Winston Cup star and a twotime NASCAR Busch Grand National
Team Corvette drivers Collins and Pilgrim
will happily share the driver’s seat of the No. 3 Goodwrench Service
Plus Corvette C5R with the Earnhardt family in the Feb. 3-4
Rolex 24 At Daytona and both sportscar aces are thrilled with the
“Driving with the Earnhardts, somewhere
down the line when I’m retired, I’ll be able to say I drove with
those guys at Daytona,” said Collins, who was part of the winning team
in the GTS class of the 1999 Rolex 24 At Daytona. “To me, that’s
rocking chair equity.”
“They’re cool guys.” Pilgrim is
equally thrilled with his teammates. “It’s very cool,” Pilgrim
said. “It’s hard to put it into easy terms. I’ve road raced my
whole life. I was born in England, but I’m now a U.S. citizen. I’ve
been here 20 years. I knew about Dale Earnhardt before I came to the
states. He’s a legend. There’s no two ways about it. The guy’s
achieved legend status for what he has done.”
Earnhardt and Earnhardt Jr. have had
twinkles in their eyes throughout the weekend. “They’re very
excited,” Collins said. “Dale Sr. seems more excited than the kid
when he gets out of the car. Junior is serious and very focused.”
The Earnhardts have asked plenty of
questions throughout the testing and Collins and Pilgrim have been
spilling out information.
“Dale and Dale Jr. are both being
extremely attentive. They’re asking a tremendous amount of questions.
Their philosophy is assume nothing. We’re just talking to them about
Petty will drive the No. 43 Porsche GT3RS
fielded by Orbit Racing. Among Petty’s co-drivers will be Leo Hindery
and Peter Baron.
Petty is the third Winston Cup driver
entered in the 39th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Dale Earnhardt
and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be driving a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R with
co-drivers Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim.
Another Winston Cup driver, Steve Park,
was also at Daytona testing a Chevrolet Corvette for MTI Racing and
looking at the possibility of competing in the Super Brand Sports Class
of the Motorola Cup, a support race to the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said Petty
during a break in the second day of a three-day Rolex 24 At Daytona test
session. “We’re really working hard at Petty Enterprises to put
together our Dodge program and to get everything done. With Buckshot
(Jones) coming on board and with John (Andretti) and myself with the
Sprint car moving that 45 team to Winston Cup, it’s been a long hard
five or six months.
“I look at this like a vacation. It’s
an opportunity to come down here and have fun and enjoy myself. That’s
what I’ve done today.”
Last year, Petty and his father Richard
and his late son Adam were working on a deal to compete in the Rolex 24
At Daytona driving one of the Team Oreca Vipers, but ran out of time to
complete the package.
Petty put together this year’s Rolex 24
At Daytona deal a couple of weeks ago over breakfast in San Francisco
with Hindery, who has been involved in the past with the Richard Petty
Driving Experience and is the former CEO of Time Warner.
“Leo said he was coming down here to do
this,” Petty said. “He said, ‘You want to do it.’ I said,
‘Sure, I’ll do it.’ I thought he was joking. He called me back a
couple of days later and he said if you want to do it, we’ll do it and
I said, ‘I’m all over it.’ ”
This is not Petty’s first Rolex 24 At
Daytona venture. In 1986, he competed in North America’s most
prestigious race when he co-drove a Ford Mustang for Roush Racing with
fellow Winston Cup drivers Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd and Ken Schrader.
“We broke about six or seven hours
in,” said Petty, whose only victory at the “World Center of
Racing” came in the 1979 ARCA 200.