Petty makes owner leap into Indy 500

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Richard Petty will make his first foray into the Indianapolis 500 as an owner when he fields a car for John Andretti in next month's race. Petty will be joining fellow NASCAR team owners Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi at Indy.

A news conference is scheduled Monday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, multiple news outlets are reporting.

Andretti drove for the now-defunct family-owned Petty Enterprises team in NASCAR from 1998 through the middle of the 2003 season. He has driven in nine Indy 500s, including the last two -- finishing 16th last year driving for Marty Roth -- and 10 NASCAR races at the famed Brickyard.

His best finish in the 500 was fifth in 1991, while his top performance in the Cup event was seventh in his first year driving for Petty.

The 46-year-old racer, the nephew of longtime open-wheel star and Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti, has also driven sports cars and dragsters.

In 1994, he became the first driver to run both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR event in Charlotte on the same day, finishing 10th at Indianapolis and crashing and finishing 36th at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon have both since done the double, but the grueling feat is no longer possible since Indianpolis changed its starting time several years ago.

Petty is a partner in NASCAR with George Gillett in Richard Petty Motorsports, the team formerly known as Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Gillett is not expected to be part of the Indy deal.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which runs the full IndyCar Series, will work with Petty at Indy, providing equipment and personnel.

The IndyCar Series is in St. Petersburg this week for the season-opening Honda Grand Prix.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.