Fittipaldi And Parker, Jr. Test Winston Cup Series Dodge Machines At Kentucky Speedway
Fourteen-year open-wheel racing veteran Christian Fittipaldi continued his stock car education while Hank Parker, Jr., mulled his racing future during Dodge testing for Petty Enterprises and Evernham Motorsports at Kentucky Speedway.
Parker, Jr., visited Kentucky with Evernham Motorsports to test its 2003 engine program.The 28-year-old driver, who finished 14th in the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series with Welliver-Jesel Motorsports, said he is weighing his future after team title sponsor General Nutrition Centers (GNC) announced it would not return to the Busch Series in 2003. The Denver, N.C., native made one NASCAR Winston Cup start with Evernham in 2002, finishing 33rd in the fall race at Rockingham.
"This is not an audition, this is a test for Dodge," Parker, Jr. said. "We're testing some different engine parts and working some different data things. Unfortunately, GNC decided to get out of racing and I'm looking at all my options for next year. This (test) was something that was planned before that decision was made."
He said he is looking to land in a competitive environment. "I just want to be with a competitive race team," Parker, Jr., added. "If I race Busch, I just want to be able to win some races. If I race Winston Cup, I want to be able to contend for the rookie-of-the-year title and just be competitive. You have to be in good equipment to run well, so I'm just keeping my eyes open for some good equipment."
Fittipaldi was a surprise addition to the Kentucky Speedway test roster. Petty Enterprises Crew Chief Gary Putnam said Fittipaldi will run an undetermined mix of ARCA RE/MAX Series, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Winston Cup Series events in 2003. He ran the full CART FEDEX Championship Series schedule in 2002 and finished fifth in the points standings after generating seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. Fittipaldi also made two NASCAR Busch Series starts and one NASCAR Winston Cup Series start in 2002, finishing outside the top 10 in each.
Putnam, who moved from MB2/Valvoline to Petty Enterprises in September, said the 31-year-old Petty prodigy is making quick progress up the stock car learning curve. "Christian's progress hasn't been slow, it's been very quick," Putnam said. "He's done really well adapting to these cars and he gives great feedback."
He added that the mixed stock car schedule will be arranged to give Fittipaldi exposure to every type of NASCAR Winston Cup Series track. "You can run every Cup race track and only run seven Cup races. That's really the whole idea behind it," Putnam said. "Plus, the ARCA and Cup cars are virtually similar, they just run on different tires. Busch cars are a little down on horsepower compared to the Cup car, but they turn a little bit better because they have a shorter wheel base and they're 100 pounds lighter."
Kentucky Speedway opens its 2003 season May 9-10 with the ARCA RE/MAX Series "Channel 5-205." The event will again be broadcast live to the Greater Cincinnati market by title sponsor WLWT-TV 5 in Cincinnati. The race features the return of four-time series champion Frank Kimmel, who has won three of the past four series events at Kentucky Speedway.
2003 season tickets are on sale now. Phone 1-888-652-RACE (7223) to order and visit www.kentuckyspeedway.com for complete schedule and ticket information.
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