CONCORD, N.C. – As the World of Outlaws Last Call at The Dirt Track at Charlotte got closer and closer on the calendar, Johnny Petrozelle III got more and more restless in his Denton, N.C., race shop.
Finally, the itch to go racing was just too strong to ignore.
After a pandemic-affected year in which he hadn’t run a race all season long, Petrozelle bolted a wing onto his sprint car, loaded up a trailer and towed down the road to the four-tenths-mile dirt oval near Concord, N.C., where he’s attempting to make his World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series debut.
Some might call the decision crazy, especially given that Petrozelle “hasn’t turned a competitive lap all year,” but the former Must See Racing South sprint car champion said he “just wants to race.”
“I got tired of sitting at home,” Petrozelle said with a chuckle as he stood beside his No. 59 sprint car. “All seriousness, though, I’ve been coming to this race track since I was about 13 years old and this means the world to me. When we got started with the 305 (sprint cars), this was always the point I wanted to get to one day. So now to be here is pretty incredible. I’m pretty excited; I’m stoked.
“I was actually joking with Jason Sides earlier, because several years ago, I came up here and said to him, ‘Hey man, I’m a 305 guy, and I really want to be an Outlaw one day. How do I do it? What’s your advice?’” Petrozelle recalled. “And he told me, ‘Get out! Get out! As soon as you can, get away!’ So I just had to go down there and say, ‘Hey man, I didn’t listen. Here I am.’”
Petrozelle’s car is reminiscent of his father’s longtime paint scheme, nicknamed the Orange Blossom Special, and features a burnt orange base with a deep blue frame.
“We got the car all the way down to the frame this past year and repainted everything, hung a bunch of new parts on it, and we’ve got our best stuff on it this weekend,” Petrozelle explained. “We’re down a little bit on power because we’re used to doing the non-winged thing and certainly not used to pushing a wing around a lot lately the last couple of years. But we’re going to put it up against the fence and see what we can do.”
Petrozelle’s goal is simple: get on track, have some fun and – if possible – sneak into one or both of the features this weekend at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
“We’re going to try as hard as we can. We might just get lucky,” Petrozelle noted. “There’s somewhere in the realm of 48 cars, so that’s about 24 cars that would make it and 24 that would go home. Hopefully we’re in the top half and we can make some fun things happen.
“Like I’ve said to a few people, we’re just here to mix it up and see how well we can do.”