Behind The Scenes

NASCAR analyst Petree back in saddle

Andy Petree has never quite gotten over the desire to drive race cars.

After a championship-winning career as a NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chief, followed by a brief but winning stint as a team owner, Petree became an analyst for ESPN’s coverage of NASCAR in 2007.

For around 75 telecasts a year, he is busy in the broadcast booth calling races, qualifying sessions and practices that air on ESPN.

But what got the Newton, N.C., native interested in racing in the first place was driving, and for much of the past 30 years, he’s gotten behind the wheel of various forms of racing vehicles when time allowed.

This weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he’s off from ESPN and is going to do something he’s never done before: compete in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race.

Known affectionately as “ground pounders,” NASCAR Modifieds are powerful, low-slung, open-wheeled racing machines that have thrilled spectators on New England short tracks for decades.

With the big tires fenderless and exposed, an element of danger exists that separates the Modifieds from Sprint Cup and other full-bodied stock cars. And with the high speeds attained at the “Magic Mile,” the races at NHMS are some of the most thrilling anywhere.

“I think they are the coolest race cars,’ said Petree, who built and owns the car he will drive.

“The way they race at New Hampshire with the open wheels and restrictor plates, they draft like it’s Talladega. The cars get bunched up and you get slingshot moves. I’ve watched them for years, and I’m really excited about running one of those races.”

At New Hampshire, he’ll have a couple of people helping him get the car ready and then will have the services of the pit crew of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton for the 100-lap race on Saturday.

“They’re just neat cars,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to run one and I never have so I thought I’ll just do it. I’m not getting any younger.”

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