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NOTES : WITH PETTY BEHIND EVERYTHING, IT MUST BE A WINNING TEAM.

Byline: John Sturbin Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Petty Enterprises, arguably the most storied name in NASCAR Winston Cup racing, made headline news throughout the Dura-Lube 500 weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

Bobby Hamilton's victory in the 500-kilometer event was well-received in the highly competitive garage area, as it gave the legendary Richard Petty his first victory as a car-owner in 13 years.

Two days earlier, Kyle Petty announced plans to return to Petty Enterprises in 1997 as owner/driver of a new team encompassing himself, father Richard, and veteran engine-builder David Evans.

With favorite son Hamilton and prodigal son Kyle in the lineup in Pontiac Grand Prixs, the Petty name could return to the prominence given it by King Richard's career record 200 victories and seven championships.

``It doesn't make any difference who drives that car,'' said Hamilton, referring to Petty's trademark No. 43 red-and-blue STP Pontiac. ``Everybody wants to see Richard Petty's race car do well.''

King Richard said the victory would be a huge morale boost for his team in Level Cross, N.C.

``This is going to jump start everybody there,'' Petty said. ``Now that these people have found they can do it, there's no question in their mind they can win races. It's not a one-man show. This is strictly a team effort.''

Kyle Petty, whose team will be known as PE2, has the backing of Mattel's Hot Wheels brand of toy vehicles.

``I finally found a sponsor that fits my personality. I'm just a grown-up kid at heart,'' said Petty, 36, the father of three.

``We're going to be working on some things with my father's team,'' said Petty, who is leaving Team Sabco after the season-ending NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Nov. 10. His team will operate out of the former RahMoc Racing shop in Concord, N.C.

``Initially, we're going to lease engines from Petty Enterprises for the first 10 or 15 races, whatever it takes,'' Kyle said. ``By the last 10 races, hopefully, we'll have the Richard Petty engines out of it and be running all our stuff.''

Kyle Petty, who has won 192 fewer races than his famous father, began his career at Petty Enterprises in 1979.

``People have been asking me for years when I would return to Petty Enterprises,'' Kyle Petty said. ``I didn't really have a master plan when the season started, but the pieces fell into place quickly. It felt like the right thing to do.''

Looking to repeat:Dallas' Kenny Bernstein, the reigning National Hot Rod Association Winston Top Fuel champion, hopes to pull off a ``John Force'' in 1997.

Force steam rolled to a record 13 victories in 19 races this season en route to his sixth Funny Car title. Bernstein believes his Budweiser King crew can do likewise in 1997.

``We want to win the championship again, trying to lead it from Day One to the last day of the season,'' said Bernstein, the first driver to win NHRA titles in Top Fuel and Funny Car. ``Our appetite for winning and competition has never diminished in the 30 years I've done it. When that day comes, I'll step out of the race car. I'll be through.

``I'm probably the worst loser around. That keeps me going.''

Bernstein has been revitalized since dumping his IndyCar and NASCAR teams.

``I'm in heaven right now with my schedule. The only thing I have to worry about is drag racing,'' said Bernstein, who said he has no interest in adding a Funny Car or Pro Stock team to his ownership mix. For instance, the legendary Don ``The Snake'' Prudhomme is adding a Funny Car to his Top Fuel dragster team in 1997.

Emmo's future on hold: Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, who was leaning toward retirement after a crash in July, is leaving the door open for a return to racing.

``Physically, I am feeling great,'' Fittipaldi, 49, said during a news conference at the Jose Carlos Pace track in Sao Paulo, Brazil. ``But I will only know for sure if I will be able to continue my career two months from now, when I complete a series of medical tests in the United States.''

Fittipaldi sustained serious neck injuries in a spectacular crash at the Michigan International Speedway on July 28. He fractured the seventh cervical vertebrae in his neck after whacking a wall at 230 mph during the Marlboro 500.

Mayfield cries `Mayday!': Winston Cup drivers Jeremy Mayfield and John Andretti completed an unusual in-season swap of rides before the Miller 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Sept. 7.

Mayfield now drives the Kmart/Little Caesars Ford Thunderbird for team-owners Michael Kranefuss and Carl Haas, and Andretti handles the RCA T-Bird for three-time Cup champion Cale Yarborough.

Andretti has the only top-five finish between the two since the switch, a fifth-place in the Hanes 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Since taking over the No. 37 Ford, Mayfield has logged finishes of 29th, 15th, 34th, 28th, 43rd, 34th and 44th at Phoenix on Sunday. Mayfield debuted a new car at PIR, only to finish last after it blew a power steering hose and later broke two motor mounts on the left side.

``Our goal the next two weeks is to find as many four-leaf clovers as we can,'' said Mayfield, who like Andretti has not won a Winston Cup race.

Green goes for gold: Like family friend and Winston Cup points-leader Terry Labonte, David Green will go after his second NASCAR Busch Grand National series championship at less than 100 percent.

Green, the 1994 series champion, was knocked unconscious for several minutes after a crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 5. He came back to finish fifth at North Carolina Motor Speedway on Oct. 19 and pull within 33 points of series leader Randy LaJoie. They will settle the championship Sunday in the Jiffy Lube 300 at Homestead, Fla.

Hornaday trucking on: Ron Hornaday Jr. is poised to become the second champion of NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series.

Hornaday has a 72-point lead on Mike Skinner, the inaugural series champion, heading into the season-ending Carquest Auto Parts 400-kilometer event Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

``I had hoped to get it done last week,'' said Hornaday, referring to the GM Goodwrench/Delco Battery 300 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday. ``Now that I haven't, I've got another week to be a basket case.''
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 3, 1996
Words:1069
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