Five-time Maritime pro stock touring series champion Wayne Smith is taking on a new role in stock car racing – as co-owner of Petty International Raceway in River Glade, New Brunswick. In doing so Smith has joined forces with long-time friends and sponsors of his No. 44 race team Craig McFetridge and Brett Benoit.
The trio has purchased a facility known to veteran Maritime race fans as one of the most exciting ¼-mile ovals in the region. Petty Raceway opened in 1983 and ceased operations in 2000. Conveniently located at the apex of a triangle between Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton, the trio are excited for the opportunities with their new business.
“It is an amazing opportunity to expand all of our roles in racing,” said Benoit. “The time is right for us to help grow our favourite sport in the Maritimes, and the location couldn’t be better.”
With an outlook to host four to six special events in 2011, the trio are targeting Pro Stock, Sportsman, Legends and Open Wheel as potential racing divisions. While no dates are official as yet, Smith has been spearheading successful talks with each organization and is encouraged by the reception he has received in every instance.
“Everyone has been great,” said Smith. “It has been exciting for me to be involved in this side of things and just as thrilling to see how excited everyone else is to know Petty is re-opening. They’ve all got as great memories as I do.”
Maybe not quite as great...The last time Smith raced there in 2000, at the last race run at Petty, he won both ends of a MASCAR Twin 100 event - so who better to help ensure things are the way they need to be when the new Petty International Raceway opens its gates in the spring of 2011.
“With Wayne’s racing expertise he can help us find out what the racers want, and Brett and I have been race fans for more than 30 years, so we’ve got a feel for what fans want,” said McFetridge. “Add to that Brett’s strength in the business world, my retail experience, and both of our close friendships with Wayne – well, it just makes sense.”
Major improvements planned for the facility are already underway and include relocating the pit area which was formerly in the infield. Today’s larger team haulers and increased car count make the move necessary. A parcel of land adjacent to the backstretch was purchased along with the track, which is where the new pits will be. Cars will enter the pits off turn two and re-enter the track on turn three. With the new pits, there will also be a retaining wall and a new grandstand along the backstretch. The added seating should bring total capacity to approximately 3,000.
“The infrastructure is in amazingly great condition,” said Smith. “We need to do a lot of cleanup and reconditioning, repairing and replacing fixtures, but the track is the same as the last time I raced there in 2000.”
Smith’s new role will not affect his driving duties as the “Oval Outlaw” with plans to challenge for a sixth Maritime title on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour in 2011.
All three partners are successful business people individually with Smith operating his own automotive repair facility in Timberlea, McFetridge is owner of the Color Your World location in Bayers Lake, and Benoit is owner of Jullin Construction in Bedford, Tommy Guns Lounge in Windsor, and Passage Pub in Barrington Passage.
Petty International Raceway is located on Highway 106, just 40 km west of Moncton, New Brunswick.