SALEM, Ind. (April 11, 2018) -- There's a Petty in the house at Salem Speedway; or there certainly will be when Thad Moffitt marches through the gate Thursday (April 12) to test for next weekend's Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200 coming April 21-22.
Moffitt is the grandson of "The King" Richard Petty, and he's on track to make his Salem debut. Like most kids growing up in the racing world, he's been hearing about the place since he can remember.
"It's one of those tracks you hear about all your life…one of those tracks the people around me have always talked about," said Moffitt.
"Everybody says that track is like Bristol, but not as much grip, multiple grooves and a lot rougher. But that's the kind of track I adapt to the best. I'm not really nervous; I'm more anxious. After all the bad luck we've had, I'm ready for a break-through race, and I feel like Salem could be that race."
Moffitt got behind the "8-ball" last Saturday at Nashville, and clawed his way back to a 14th-place finish in the No. 46 Performance Plus Ford for Empire Racing. Despite the issues Moffitt had at Nashville, once things sorted out, the Trinity, N.C. fourth-generation racer was running lap times on pace with the leaders.
"I’m a little bit disappointed to be honest. We had a seal blow out and didn't get to qualify and had to start in the rear. We went into the race not knowing what we had. We raced up to 12th, then we had a right-rear tire go down…then I got caught speeding on pit road. We were as fast as the leaders in the end; we just didn't have any track position."
If it's at all possible, Moffitt hopes to get a head start on Salem Speedway.
"We're getting ready to roll out to Salem. We just loaded up for the test."
Moffitt will also have help from veteran crew chief Jeff McClure at Salem. McClure has built a reputation on helping several up and coming young drivers. When Todd Gilliland became the youngest ARCA winner in history at Toledo Speedway, it was McClure who engineered the victory from the pit box.
"A lot of my crew guys have been telling me about Salem," Moffitt continued. "Jeff McClure just came on board with us and he's been giving me a lot of good advice on Salem. He told me that if I'm going to pass anybody, I gotta make sure I get off (turn) two. And if you can't make the pass off two, then just do it the next lap. Don't try it in three and four."
Moffitt has been getting the best of both worlds at Empire, help from not only McClure, but from longtime Empire crew chief Mike "Grumpy" Cheek.
"I'm really fortunate. I'm getting the knowledge of two great crew chiefs. I guess you could say I have co-crew chiefs. They discuss everything together, and I benefit from that."
Moffitt finished an ARCA career-best 11th at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2017. He also earned the Southeast Limited Late Model Series championship in 2016. His famous grandfather Richard Petty is a 7-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and is the all-time Cup leader with 200 career wins.
Other teams expected to test at Salem include Kimmel Racing Wednesday afternoon, Mason Mitchell Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Win-Tron Racing and Chad Bryant Racing Thursday, Venturini Motorsports Friday and MDM Motorsports Monday. MDM finished 1-2-3 at Nashville with winner Zane Smith, runner-up Sheldon Creed and third-place Harrison Burton.
Past ARCA Racing Series winners at Salem include NASCAR Cup champions Bobby Allison and Benny Parsons, 1952 Indianapolis 500 winner Troy Ruttman, six-time ARCA champion Iggy Katona, Ken Schrader, 10-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel (9-time Salem winner), and three-time series champions Jack Bowsher and Tim Steele. NASCAR drivers Justin Allgaier, Brian Keselowski, Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman and Brennan Poole have also visited victory lane in ARCA competition at Salem. NASCAR Truck Series champion Christopher Bell swept both ARCA races at Salem in 2016. 2017 ARCA national champion Austin Theriault is the most recent Salem winner.
The Salem race also marks round 2 for the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge, one of 11 short track events in 2018 that make up ARCA's Short Track championship.
The Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 will spread out over two days, Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22. Practice is Saturday afternoon from 12 noon to 1:30, with General Tire Pole Qualifying following at 4. Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 raceday festivities get underway Sunday morning with an on-track driver autograph session at 11:30, followed by the Great American Stock feature event at 1. Pre-race ceremonies, ARCA driver introductions and the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 follow. The ARCA race is scheduled to get the green flag at 2:15 Sunday afternoon.
For ticket info, visit SalemSpeedway.com