INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Petry stood off to the side of the fourth turn at Circle City Raceway Wednesday night like a parent waiting for the start of their child’s first quarter midget race.
Sure, he had a car starting on the pole for the fifth round of USAC Indiana Midget Week, but these nerves were about more than just watching the cars he owns go around a dirt oval.
This was about a dirt oval that he had a hand in building putting on a show for the fans in attendance.
Petry’s company — Petry Excavating, Inc. — worked with Jonathan Byrd II to help clear the way for and design the new quarter-mile Circle City race track at the Marion County Fairgrounds.
In the Greenfield, Ind., businessman’s words, “This track was our canvas to work with and we didn’t want to disappoint.”
It’s the second time Petry has assisted with the design and construction of a dirt track in recent years, as he also aided in the building of The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I’ve been pretty blessed,” Petry said after Wednesday’s program. “We got to build the BC39 track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and when Kevin Garrigus decided he was going to make this deal happen, he called and said, ‘Here it is; it’s a blank slate and you design it, you do it and you tell me what we’re going to do. I was honored, frankly, that he trusted me to do that.
“We put a lot of time and effort into designing this thing. And I changed the canvas midway through,” Petry continued. “The whole time, we changed what we were doing from the original concept and it just kept getting better and better. Our first practice night, I got a lot of good input and I appreciated the guys’ sincerity and what they told us about changes they wanted to see. Nobody was upset.”
Circle City opened May 20-21 with a pair of FloRacing All Star Circuit of Champions sprint car shows and followed that with a World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series appearance on June 4.
But Wednesday’s midweek spectacle — the first appearance of the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series at Indiana’s newest bullring — was what Petry called “the true test.”
Bullrings are often a highlight of the USAC midget schedule due to the tightly packed racing they produce. Though some people had doubts at first, Circle City was no exception to that rule.
Slide jobs abounded in the battle for the lead and drivers raced two, if not three- and four-wide for position, at times during an action-filled 30-lap feature.
It was exactly the kind of spectacle Petry hoped would take place.
“It wasn’t a real racy track after the first practice night we had here,” Petry recalled. “We changed course and regraded the whole thing after that. The All Stars ran their two races here and those were great races. I wasn’t here for the late model race, but I heard the track had two good lanes even though it got a little rough. They’d had two inches of rain the day before, though, so that was somewhat expected.
“Ahead of this one, we just spent a lot of time over the last couple of days on the phone, talking with Kevin and his crew about how to prep this thing. And we beat it in and waited on the rain,” Petry added. “It got a couple of holes in it tonight, but man was it racy. There was slide job after slide job. It was fast [both] high and low.
“If fans didn’t like this kind of racing, they might as well stay home, because this was one of the best races I’ve seen in a long time.”
Kevin Thomas Jr. fell back from his pole starting spot before rallying late to post a second-place finish in Petry’s familiar No. 5 car, while Indiana teenager Emerson Axsom traded jabs with eventual winner Corey Day before settling for fourth in the sister No. 15 entry.
There wasn’t a trophy to go with those finishes, but the bigger prize was in the show, Petry noted.
“I hate to say I’m disappointed because we didn’t win, but man, I’m a little disappointed,” Petry said, breaking into a humorous grin. “At the end of the day, though, when you can run second and fourth with 37 of the top midgets in the nation … that’s a pretty good night.
“We saw a great race and I rolled two cars back into the trailer. I can sleep well after that.”