Petty's iconic blue and red No. 43 back at Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- The iconic No. 43 car and it's unmistakable blue-and-red paint scheme is making its return to NASCAR this weekend in Kansas.
The modern version of the car made famous by "The King," Hall of Famer Richard Petty, will start Sunday's Sprint Cup race at the Kansas Speedway with A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel.
The move is part of a renewed push into the sport by Petty's longtime sponsor, STP, which is also sponsoring Sunday's 400-mile race.
"I wake up every day and I feel very fortunate to be able to get in the 43 and have such a huge fan base when it comes to the number and the history of NASCAR," Allmendinger said. "To now having the paint scheme that - especially all the old-school fans - looked at and loved as they grew up and watched 'The King.' For me, I feel very fortunate to be a part of (it)."
Allmendinger is hoping his Petty Blue and Day-Glo Red machine can run like the one he had last week. Allmendinger finished fifth at Charlotte, one spot ahead of Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Marcos Ambrose.
"Every weekend we want to come here and win, and that's our ultimate goal. But you've got to be a contender first. You've got to show up every weekend and be a team that puts yourself in that position," Allmendinger said. "The best way you can do that is be there every weekend and be a top-10 team and I think that when we're at our best we can be as good as any other team out there."
"I loved this track from the beginning, obviously, but like all tracks do over time as they settle in, you get some different characteristics that come into play."
As Kansas Speedway has aged, Gordon said it has become a place where fans can see a good deal of side-by-side racing.
"The way it wears the tires, the grip level just makes for multiple grooves, he said. "We already saw yesterday in practice: cars up against the wall, cars on the bottom, cars in the middle. That is going to make for a great race tomorrow."
Though Gordon has run well at Kansas in recent years and finished fifth in 2010, he qualified just 22nd for Sunday's race.
The concept is to bring drivers from various series to the dirt track and pair them up in teams in late model cars. The stars in this year's lineup will include Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan.
Stewart said the event has raised roughly $3 million for charity in six years, and teams now build special cars for the race instead of borrowing someone else's.
"It's a really neat opportunity for us to go have a good time, race with each other, have fun for an evening and raise a lot of money for charity," Stewart said.
Earnhardt said Friday that he can understand the passion of his supporters because he feels the same way about his beloved Washington Redskins.
"That's the way I take a Redskins loss. I take a Redskins season the same way," Earnhardt said. "I can definitely relate."
Earnhardt's last win came in 2008, and the Redskins haven't had much luck since then either, going just 18-30 over the past three years.