JIM PETTIT'S NASCAR CHAMPIONS WEEK LEFTOVERS by MikeTwist
One Man, Many Stories
There’s one in every crowd – the guy who has the best stories to tell and who can make someone that he met a few minutes before feel like a lifelong friend. In New York City during NASCAR Champions week, there were a total of 12 men being honored for their winning ways during the 2005 season. The chemistry among everyone was amazing. Everyone got along and had great stories to tell.
York a day earlier than required and stayed an extra day after the banquet was over. This allowed them to make more of a vacation out of the experience.
“Last year, we had the yellow stripe on our back,” said Pettit said on his first night in New York this year. “We really didn’t know what to expect. This year, we came in a day early and are staying a day later. Last year, we missed this deal [A Wednesday night dinner party with the champions] because our plane got stuck on the tarmac. When we got here it’s was go, go, go, so we said that this year we wanted to enjoy ourselves.”
Getting there ahead of the crowd allowed for some early sight-seeing.
“We went and checked out the Statue of Library and Ellis Island,” said Pettit. “We made a whole day of those two places. It was our first time out there. It was very impressive. You always see it throughout your whole life growing up and you know what it stands for. But it doesn’t do it justice until you walk up to it and see it. That they thought about building something like that way back then. Then you see Ellis Island and think of all the people who came through there. It’s pretty cool.”
Because it is so hard to win a touring championship, Pettit really wants to live for the moment.
“We’re taking in as much as we can because it’s so hard to get back here,” said Pettit. “We’re going to make the most of this because you never know. We’re only the second two-time champion in our series. The only other one was Ron Hornaday, Jr. I’m not saying that we aren’t capable of it next year, but you’ve got to take it while you can.”
THERE’S NO WEEK LIKE CHAMPIONS WEEK
Champions Week in New York is such a lavish presentation that nothing, not even a series banquet in Las Vegas, can hold a candle to it for Pettit.
“Our banquet is next weekend in Las Vegas,” said Pettit during Champions Week. “After I see all of this, I’ll feel like a bomber division drivers out there. Vegas is great, but it’s not like New York and the Nextel Cup stuff that they have here. It’s great and they do a great job. There’s not a better experience in all of the stuff that we do than coming to New York.”
Not everyone in Pettit’s hometown of Prunedale, California knows that he is a NASCAR champion. In fact, there are some friends of his who are big NASCAR fans and didn’t even know it until recently. Scott Anderson was one of those guys and Pettit had some fun with his friend about that.
“What happened was, we were down at this part on an off weekend and we were just hanging out and having a barbeque and drinking,” said Pettit. “Somehow, racing came up. My other neighbors know that I race and that came up. Scott asked me what I raced and I told him the NASCAR Autozone Elite Series, Southwest Series. He asked how we did and I said that we were the champions last year. They were all like ga-ga then.”
That led to a request from Anderson which involved the voicemail box on his mobile phone.
Jim Pettit (R) got to spend more time sightseeing in NYC this year. Here he is with NASCAR's Jason Bates on Top of the Rock above the city, with the Empire State Building at the same height in the background. (51 Photo)
But there was one who was just a little more lively than the rest of the bunch – there was NASCAR Southwest Series champion Jim Pettit, II
You might have noticed when we brought you our leftovers from New York City, Pettit wasn’t mentioned much. That’s because he gave us so much material in the Big Apple, that he deserves his own leftovers. For better or worse, here it is. Enjoy.
NEW YORK TRIP, TAKE TWO
This year wasn’t Pettit’s first rodeo. He was also in New York being honored in 2004 after winning his first SWS title. The biggest thing that he learned then was that he needed more time to really enjoy the big city.
So in 2005, Pettit and his wife Veronica came to New
Pettit accepts a new Bell Helmet from NASCAR's Mike Helton. (51 Photo)
“He told me, ‘Here is my Christmas Wish List. If you can get any NASCAR driver who is one click more famous than you to call this phone and just leave a message, my life would be complete.”
Pettit was up for the challenge
“I asked who his favorite NASCAR Nextel Cup driver was and he said Kurt Busch. I told him that he was in luck and Kurt and I were friends and used to race in the same series. I told him that we hung out together in New York. He believed me and he didn’t believe me. So I told him that if I could win this thing again, I would get him some stuff in New York.”
Pettit got to spend time with the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion during Champions Week and convinced him to make a phone call.
“Kurt and I were talking and I asked him to sign some stuff for me. He said that wasn’t a problem and we hung out. When we got done, I asked him if he would call Scott for me because he’s a huge fan. So he called him up.
“Kurt got on the phone and said, ‘Scotty, this is Kurt Busch…No really, this is Kurt Busch. You probably think that it really sucks that you let this call go to voicemail. I’m standing right here in New York with Jim Pettit and he told me that you were a big fan. Well, I’ll talk to you later!”
Anderson loved his message.
“He called me back and told me that I was Santa Claus. He was all happy.”
When Pettit was telling the story to Speed51.com, a small crowd gathered around and Peyton Sellers got an idea of his own. He took Pettit’s phone and left Anderson another message.
“Scotty. This is Peyton Sellers, the 2005 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series National Champion,” said Sellers. “I’m standing here with Jim Pettit, II and he said to give you a call. I’ve met him once or twice and I’m doing my best to get away from him now before he gets us into trouble.”
RACING FOR A GOOD CAUSE
It would be easy to think that Pettit is all about fun and games, but there is more than one side to him as well. During the week, he spends most of his time behind the wheel of a big truck working at his family’s recycling yard. He’s also very willing to help out others, as shown by his involvement with the Racing for the Missing Organization.
Not all of the folks back home know that Pettit (L) gets to hang out with NASCAR stars like Michael Waltrip (R) or Kurt Busch. (51 Photo)
One of Pettit's hoods from the 2005 season. (theyaremissed.org / Motorshooters Photo)
Pettit showcased the photos of missing people on his car during the 2005 season to bring attention to their plight.
“Racing for the Missing is not a sponsorship,” said Pettit. “It’s a charity thing that we do and there is no money involved in it. After the first race of the year, we had no sponsor. We were the defending champions and I went to Darrell LaMoure and talked to him. I always knew that he was doing this deal. He was doing a great job and I never got involved, but when he decided not to run a full season, I wanted to do something. I talked to my wife and told her that I really believe in the foundation and think that it was doing a great job. I then went to Darrel and told him that I would like to be involved in the program. He told me that there was no money for that and I said that I was aware of that. I believe in the cause.
“He said, “You’re telling me that the defending champion from last year is willing to do that for us?” and I said yes. I believed in it that much. He didn’t know what to say other than thank you.
“He sent me the updated information and the pictures. We would profile somebody different every race. It’s a great cause. We came in Tuesday and that night, we were watching TV and on Larry King, they were profiling cold cases. One of the ladies was a girl that was on our car. I said to my wife, “Wow, we profiled her.”
LaMoure, who owns the #94 car that runs a limited Southwest Series schedule, got involved in the organization in a similar way.
“One day he was at a small family, neighborhood get together and somebody mentioned to him about a girl that was missing and it was so sad,” said Pettit. “He wondered why he couldn’t just put a picture of her on his hood. That’s how that got started. It is now in conjunction with the Missing Children Foundation of America. It’s a big time and it’s a legitimate non-profit organization.”
There are no financial benefits to Pettit and his team for being involved with Racing for the Missing, but there are some rewards that are more important than money.
“Our whole goal is to bring attention and you never know what might happen,” said Pettit. “We haven’t had anyone yet. But when we find our first one, all that is going to do is to put the fire into us even more. The reward for us is the e-mails and the interactions that we have with the families.
“We profiled a daughter and a son at Irwindale. We fortunately won the race and that following Tuesday, we got an e-mail from their father who happens to be serving in the United States Air Force. He’s defending our country and his wife and child are missing. He said that he couldn’t thank us enough for bringing attention back to his case. It was very touching. He told us that he and his father-in-law were always big NASCAR fans and we know how great NASCAR is. He wished us the best of luck and thanked us.
“It was very emotional. I forwarded it to every crew member on our team, so they knew. They are the ones putting the decals on the car and interacting with the families at the track. That fires them up and gives them the motivation to give the little bit extra to run up front and potentially get more attention for the cause.”
EARNING THE RESPECT OF YOUR PEERS?
If there was a poll among the champions in New York, Pettit would probably have been voted as the most popular driver…or maybe the class clown. One thing is for certain, he definitely made an impression upon his fellow racers.
“I met Petit last year in Irwindale then we came here together,” said NASCAR Southeast Series champion Jeff Fultz. “He and his wife are really good people. We have a lot of fun together along with Justin. We went to Memphis and did the Liberty Bowl together for AutoZone and hang out for a week at New Year’s. He’s wide open and one of the guys who is a lot of fun to hang out with in a place like this.”
Fultz and Pettit keep in touch throughout the year.
“We talk on the phone a lot. He calls me if I win a race and I call him if he wins one. At Phoenix, we were pulling for him more than we were ourselves. I kept asking on the radio ‘Where’s Pettit?’ I was so glad to see him win. He was the last person that we were waiting on, so for Phoenix, we were all pulling for Pettit.”
“He’s not normal,” said Midwest Series champion Justin Diercks, shaking his head.
Just then, Pettit started talking…and kept on talking. That is when Diercks when into more detail.
“He does do that (talks) a lot, but that’s what makes him special,” said Diercks, starting to turn a little more serious. “He really is a special guy.”
PETTIT’S FINAL THOUGHTS
It turned out that Pettit really enjoyed his time back in New York. This is what he told Speed51.com on his final evening there:
“The cool thing is that this year, we came back here and we weren’t overwhelmed like we were last year,” said Pettit. “First of all, we were so excited that we got to go the New York and we had no idea what was going on, or what was planned for us. When we got here, they had us on such a tight schedule.”
Going back as a repeat champion, just like Andy Santerre, Tony Hirschman, Jeff Jefferson, Jeff Fultz, Mike Duncan and Justin Diercks [only Peyton Sellers and Ted Musgrave were first-time NASCAR National Champions this season], was quite an experience.
“It’s great to see all of the champions again. Kurt Busch was with us and he told us “you guys are all repeats from last year!! We got to hang out with more of the Cup guys this year. Tony Stewart was real cool and Michael Waltrip came down to see us. That was cool.”
Not only did all of the champions get along, their wives and significant others were also in New York and they all got along just as well or even better.
“This is such a great experience and I know that my wife will put the pressure on me to get back here,” said Pettit. “She loves coming to meet up with all of her girlfriends here.”
Justin Diercks (L) and Jim Pettit, II (R) have some fun for the camera. (51 Photo)