By Danny Burton
The Tar Heel state may be known for stock car racing, but open wheel racers from North Carolina aren’t the most common sight at an open wheel event, let along the Hoosier 100. But it looks like a North Carolina native, Johnny Petrozelle from Denton, North Carolina, will be traveling to the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the USAC Silver Crown annual Hoosier 100 on May 25.
Petrozelle, who will turn 27 on the day before the race, has been involved with racing since age 11, starting in WKA Champ Karts. He is a third-generation racer, with both of his grandfathers passing on the love of fast cars to the next generation. One grandfather owned a car, was a promoter, and published a racing publication that covered open wheel racing in Florida, as well as the East Coast. The other raced stock cars and midgets.
As noted, there was no open wheel presence in North Carolina, so Petrozelle began racing in the Allison Legacy Series, wheeling four-cylinder stock cars built and run by the famous NASCAR family. From there, he began a long association with Trevor Boys, a Canadian racer who had raced with NASCAR off and on through the 80s. Johnny drove the Boys open wheel modified on pavement for a few years.
“In 2012, the modified series went defunct. Trevor called me and said he had an old Gambler sprint car and if I could find anywhere to race it, he would let me keep it,” said Petrozelle. Not only did he keep it, Petrozelle raced the sprinter in a new sprint car series begun by Ray Evernham that same year.
“Ray wanted to promote sprint car racing in North Carolina. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I could race in the same discipline as my grandfathers and father had.”
In recent years Petrozelle has divided his time running sprints on dirt and pavement with the MustSee Sprint Series. But in 2016 he aligned himself with car owner Curt Cornell. A Silver Crown car was purchased from Hoosier car owner/superwrench Mike Dutcher and plans were made for Johnny to come north and race in the 2017 season’s opener at Terre Haute.
Petrozelle noted, “We made a ton of adjustments and we ended up 12th quick. During the race, I hooked a rut in turn three after about 30 laps and spun. I came back to finish 11th.”
Yet another impressive side of this young man is his sense of history. “My next race is the Hoosier 100. Probably the coolest part of Silver Crown racing is the history behind each track and event. We are entering all six dirt shows this year and are trying to figure out how to run the whole tour next year.”
With an awareness and attitude like that, especially from a racer from a place where stock cars rule, Johnny Petrozelle will be a welcome addition to the 2017 Hoosier 100 starting lineup.
On Thursday, May 25, fans will make the short trek to the east and the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the 63rd running of the Hoosier Hundred. The 100-mile race features the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series and, new this year, the Mid-American Stock Car Series. Not only does the Hoosier Hundred have a rich history, the Mid-American Stock Car competitors are looking forward to their first visit at the huge event.
Hoosier Hundred pit gates will open at 12:00, grandstands at 3:00, hotlaps start at 5:00, racing begins for Mid-Am at 7:00, with the Hoosier 100 scheduled for an 8:00 green flag. Reserved seating is available for the Hoosier Hundred by calling the Track Enterprises office, the Indiana State Fairgrounds, or through Ticketmaster. Reserved seats for adults are being sold for $25 presale or $30 at the gate. Infield tickets will be available for $15 for adults and $5 for kids 11 and under.
For more information on any of the events, visit www.trackenterprises.com, www.usacracing.com, or call the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200.