A life-long drag racer, Newnan's Petry has removed his helmet in favor of a technical inspector's cap at Atlanta Motor Speedway's Friday Night Drags presented by ACDelco. And while his new role might go under-appreciated, Petry takes tremendous pride in improving the competitive balance at Atlanta Motor Speedway each Friday night.
One-year ago, Petry was roaring down the down AMS's eight-mile drag strip exceeding speeds of 100 mph in his 1983 Cadillac Coup De Ville, a lifestyle hobby he's enjoyed since the beginning of the 1970s. Today, he spends his Fridays under his former competitor's hoods and sorts the drag vehicles into the correct competition class by utilizing his years of experience. And while he doesn't receive much praise for his duties, he does hear the heated complaints of those trying to bend the rules.
"It gets pretty interesting and vocal at times. I've had guys I've known for 10 years get loud with me," said Petry, who in addition to his drag experience is a General Motors certified master technician. "Their competitive edge is so strong that they want to do anything to win and want us to stretch the rules. I tell them they're just running for fun and a trophy, but they're so spirited they don't see it that way."
Despite the arguments, Petry relishes his new role. On a typical Friday night, he scrutinizes competing vehicles for performance and safety measures and, in the meantime, chats up the racers while trying to get participation from their significant others.
"This job is a lot of fun because you get to talk to different people and meet everyone out there," said Petry. "I try to talk a lot of the girlfriends and wives into racing the cars. I try my best to get the girls to have as much fun as they can and we have a few that do come out and race, but I'm yet to talk on into it on the spot."
After fraternizing with the field, Petry moves to the finish line where he marks who crosses the stripe first, while avoiding full-speed vehicles.
"Its exciting watching the cars come at me full speed," described Petry, who opted to end his professional drag racing career for a day job in 1973. "They're loud as they fly past me and it's a real fun location to watch the competition."
While the on-track excitement brings back memories for Petry who still hankers to compete, he knows the importance of maintaining fair races and thrives at his new job.
"It's a lot of fun being around the cars, but making it fair and setting straight the people who try to sneak something by the tech inspectors is why I'm out here," said Petry. "I remind these guys they aren't racing for a million dollars, so be safe and have fun. I'm competitive too, but you have to remember that this is for fun."
And Petry remembers how exciting it is. He might still be enjoying the competition side if it weren't for a run-in with a large deer that significantly damaged his Cadillac.
"I hit a big deer and it totaled the car, but it's going to come out better," explained Petry with equal tones of frustration and excitement in his voice. "It's going to take maybe two more months to get the car fixed, but its going to look and perform even better. I'd like to get back out there for a race soon."
Arthur Petry can be seen at the finish line at Atlanta Motor Speedway's Friday Night Drags presented by ACDelco this Friday, June 27 and every Friday night through August 22. More information can be obtained by calling 770-946-4211 or by visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com
EDITOR'S NOTE: High-resolution images of Petry and his 1983 Cadillac Coupe De Ville to accompany this release, can be downloaded from:
Photos courtesy of Atlanta Motor Speedway