Richard Petty got a full immersion into Indianapolis 500 competition Saturday.
There were tricky winds, delays between qualifying rounds and all those tenuous moments his team debated whether to send John Andretti onto the track. The visit even came with a ruling more reminiscent of Petty’s NASCAR days – Justin Wilson’s early penalty for failing post-qualifying inspection.
Maybe the seven-time Cup champion can’t escape those stock-car roots after all.
Still, The King of NASCAR seemed right at home on the classic 2.5-mile oval with his old friend Andretti driving on Pole Day as an IndyCar owner.
“We finally, finally, got to come to the biggest race there is here,” Petty said. “Just to be around the crowd, seeing the cars and stuff, I think what fascinated me about the Indy deal is the cars more than maybe the people or the circumstances.”
Petty’s pilgrimage to Indy began when his father, Lee, brought his teenage son here in the mid-50s. Later in his career, Richard Petty returned to do autograph sessions and sponsorship appearances or to mingle with friends such as A.J. Foyt, who tried to coax him into driving a car.
But this was a completely different environment. For the first time in his long and illustrious racing career, Petty took a break from NASCAR’s race day preparations in Darlington to watch the familiar Petty blue-and-red No. 43 car with the unfamiliar open cockpit drive around the historic oval. He headed back to the race Saturday afternoon.
“It’s good to have him here,” Andretti said after running nine laps with a best speed of 218.538 mph. “He’s done enough in his life he doesn’t have to come, but to have him here is great.”
Mayfield fails drug test, suspended
Jeremy Mayfield was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for failing a random drug test, becoming the first driver to violate a toughened new policy that went into effect this season.
Mayfield tested positive for a banned substance last weekend at Richmond International Raceway.
“In my case, I believe that the combination of a prescribed medicine and an over-the-counter medicine reacted together and resulted in a positive drug test,” Mayfield said in a statement. “My doctor and I are working with both Dr. (David) Black and NASCAR to resolve this matter.”
Black is the CEO of Aegis Sciences Corp. in Nashville, Tenn., which runs NASCAR’s testing program.
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter would not reveal what banned substance Mayfield used, but Hunter said it was not an alcohol-related offense.
Button on pole for Spanish GP
Championship leader Jenson Button was fastest in qualifying to take pole position for Formula One’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
The Brawn GP driver took his third pole of the season with a record time of 1 minute, 20.527 seconds on the Circuit de Catalunya track.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel will start from second, while Brawn GP’s Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa of Ferrari will fill the second row.
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