Jim Pettit II has enjoyed one of the most storied careers in west coast racing filled with a diverse array of accomplishments. Between the former NASCAR Southwest Tour and the current SRL Southwest Tour he possesses five championship rings, which he proudly displays even while at the race track.
From Prunedale, California, Pettit began racing on dirt and was the 1984 Pacific Coast Region NASCAR Whelen All-American Region champion, at that time the youngest ever. Three decades later he looks to write his name in the history books once again, as the inaugural winner of the Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway Park (CA).
“The biggest thing that they can never take away from you by winning this event is you will always be known as the first one to ever win that event,” Pettit told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “That’s more special to me than the money. The money helps you do other things for other races, but that’s something that is very prestigious.”
Pettit has enjoyed success in the short tenure that the Bakersfield, California track has been opened. He has already been victorious once on a weekly basis as well as in SRL competition at the half-mile track.
“We were fortunate to win the first ever Tour race here, so that is in history forever,” Pettit continued. “I think whoever wins the race is going to be in the history books forever and everyone in racing always remembers who the first time winner of these races are.”
To get to that point, Pettit feels like they may have to work on some improvements, if there is a way to find any, after finishing Thursday afternoon’s practice session in ninth place.
“We are trying to figure out where we can gain some more speed because we are faster now than we have ever been here, yet we are still slower than eight guys in front of us,” Pettit remarked. “We’re sitting here trying to figure out what we can do to better ourselves and hope to pick up a tenth or two.”
One year ago, Pettit scaled back from a full schedule in a touring series that he has become so successful at over time. He focused on some of the bigger shows, which resulted in a win in the Southern Idaho 222 at Magic Valley Speedway and was running second behind current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie Cameron Hayley at the Evergreen Speedway (WA) Summer Showdown before a tire went down. In addition, Pettit has been rekindling some success returning to his roots in a Dirt IMCA Modified especially at Ocean Speedway (CA).
Nevertheless, it is not a big adjustment when returning to the pavement with many of the full time touring regulars.
“We were back here in October and we led the race until late and got into a mishap, but other than that it’s just racing,” Pettit said.
Rather, the now 50-year-old veteran driver feels that some of the uncertainty comes from the “open” style show that has been put together mainly between the grandfathered perimeter-style Late Models from the defunct NASCAR Elite Division series and the straight rail chassis that have taken over across the country away from the southwest.
“The biggest thing is we have so many different combinations this weekend that it’s a juggling act for the series to make it where it is fair for everybody,” Pettit explained. “This is a true Tour car so most of the guys we are running against, I don’t know if anybody in the top five right now is a perimeter car like us. I just don’t know the dynamics of how bigger of an advantage they have. Not to take anything away, we have a lot of great drivers here.”
One thing is for sure, with the experience and success Pettit carries into the Winter Showdown a win cannot be ruled out in a longer distance event such as this.
“It’s still 250 laps, and anybody that you would talk to would say that I am not known for my qualifying efforts, but I race well.”
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Correspondent – Twitter: @Aaron_Creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com