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Pettyjohn's long commute pays off at Winchester

By Brad Fauber - bfauber@nvdaily.com

Kenny Pettyjohn has pretty much mastered his home track in his native state of Delaware.
Pettyjohn, a seasoned veteran when it comes to auto racing in the dirt Late Model division, is a 10-time track champion at Delaware International Speedway, located in Delmar, Del.

All of those victories are nice, but for Pettyjohn the real pride comes from taking the checkered flag on far less familiar circuits. That's why he has been making the four-hour trip from his home in Millsboro, Del., to Winchester every weekend to compete at the Winchester Speedway this season.

"Venturing out and doing well at other tracks has probably been a bigger highlight," Pettyjohn said recently during a phone interview. "It's one thing to win on your home track, but it's another thing to go somewhere else and do well."

Pettyjohn is certainly doing well in his first season racing at the Winchester Speedway. With about a month left before the point series ends on Sept. 8, he leads a field of 90 racers in the dirt Late Model standings.

Pettyjohn has been on a tear over the last half of the racing season at Winchester Speedway, although it hasn't all been easy.

Pettyjohn finished 24th in an event in the early stages of the 2012 season on March 31, but has finished in the top 10 in each of his last 12 races, including back-to-back victories -- his first two wins at Winchester Speedway -- on July 21 and 28.

"At the beginning of the season I felt like we ran really well, but things didn't quite work out," Pettyjohn said. "The last couple of races, things have fallen in place."

His recent string of successful races, which includes four straight top-three finishes, has given Pettyjohn a fairly comfortable lead over the opposition. He currently sits at 2,578 points, well ahead of Keith Jackson, who holds second place with 2,257 points.

Pettyjohn is peaking at the right time of the season and he should be primed for what he calls "the biggest event of the season" -- the Ernie D's World of Outlaws race on Aug. 25.

The World of Outlaws is considered one of the top traveling tours for dirt Late Model stock car racing in the nation, and the 50-lap Winchester race will offer a $10,000 prize to the winner. A victory in that event would almost certainly go near the top of the list of career highlights for Pettyjohn, who has accomplished a lot in his 27-year career.

While the victories and other successful ventures on the track are directly attributed to Pettyjohn's skill behind the wheel, he admits that he never thought racing would be a part of his life.

"I raced go-karts for a couple of years at the local go-kart track when I was little. That was about all we could afford, so then I lost interest in that," Pettyjohn said. "Then my buddies got me back involved in stock cars and I wasn't even looking to do that, really.

"Some friends were wanting to put a race car together, and we all put a car together."
Pettyjohn began racing in 1985 at age 17 in the Street Stock division and picked up his first victory that same year. Since then he competed successfully in Street Stock, Dirt Modified and Late Model races at tracks all over the United States.

Pettyjohn said he has no idea how long he will continue competing on the race track, only that he will quit when "I don't have fun anymore."

Until then, Pettyjohn will continue to burn rubber on the track, perhaps even competing in another season at Winchester Speedway in the future.

"We've had a lot of fun, we've had a good time this season," Pettyjohn said. "I enjoy racing with the cars that ran here this year. Mr. [Greg] Gunter has put a lot of effort into his track. He's had a good show of cars this year."

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