Pettiford Celebrates The Holidays With Three New Trophies
Only twice in history has a SafeRacer SCCA National Racing Series driver won three Divisional championships in one season. But only one driver has been good enough, or lucky enough, or even crazy enough to accomplish the feat.
Michael Pettiford, of Louisville, Colo., is the only member in that exclusive fraternity after pulling off the triple in the Rocky Mountain Division for the first time in 2008, and again this past season. It's a feat unmatched by any SCCA Club racer, and may not be matched anytime soon.
The reason? There's a lot that can go wrong. Every racer knows how difficult it is to win a single Division championship - imagine trying to repeat that feat with three cars, three sets of tires, three races (or more) in a weekend. That's triple trouble.
Pettiford's road to the title trio took more effort than the owner of Go 4 It Racing Schools and street driving instruction even appreciated.
"Initially, when I did [the triple] in '08, it was kind of a quest," Pettiford, who owns 27 Rocky Mountain Division titles overall in his career, said. "People said it couldn't be done, and I tried for seven years - and they were absolutely right. In '08, it was down to the wire, and we just squeaked it in. It was just relief."
With his quest seemingly completed, it was back to status quo in 2009 - running his Chevrolet Corvette in Touring 1, and a Pontiac Solstice in Touring 2. Early in the 2010 season, however, it was actually SCCA Pro Racing that gave Pettiford a chance to campaign a third Club Racing class.
Pettiford had competed in World Challenge in the early 1990s, and rule changes for 2010 allowed him to dabble in the pro ranks again.
"I started with a Solstice in St. Petersburg, and then got a third-place finish in a Corvette [in GTS] at the Long Beach Grand Prix, which was a race I always wanted to do," he said. "Then an opportunity presented itself to race with Volkswagen. They had a lot of contingency money available, and I finished third at Virginia International Raceway and fourth at Toronto [in Touring Car]. With the deal and the contingency it ended up not costing me near as much money as it normally would."
That unexpected Volkswagen link would turn out to be one for the history books.
"I really had no intention of even running three classes in 2010," Pettiford continued. "But when the Volkswagen deal came to be, it was something that you can do with Volkswagen's contingencies paying well enough to sustain the Club Racing. So that if you were very frugal, and did well, and kept your nose clean - you wouldn't have to spend a lot of money. That's how I ended up doing the three classes."
Even with the Volkswagen running in the STU class, there was still the little matter of winning the Rocky Mountain Division championship in all three classes.
"I had pretty fierce competition down to the wire from Jason Ott in a BMW, but I squeaked it out," he said of the T2 Championship, the closest point battle. "You really have to bring your A-game when you're going to do this. You can't have an off day."
It was an understandably proud accomplishment for Pettiford, who, like every racer, has experienced enough heartbreak in his racing career to appreciate his good fortune - and has begun to work toward his next set of championships.
"You just have to do the best you can," he said in reflection. "For seven years, that was the objective and it didn't happen. I would get really close, but there would be a malfunction or something would happen and I would end up with a couple of firsts and a second, instead of wins in all three classes. And for a lot of people, that's a great season.
"But you set your sights on a particular goal, and that becomes the focus, the passion. To jump out of a Corvette and into a Jetta and win races back-to-back, that takes some adaptability. And that's what I pride myself on - that's what drivers are supposed to do. It doesn't matter if you haven't seen the track, it doesn't matter if you haven't been in the car very long. You're expected to go faster than anyone, and that's the task. That's why it's so cool."
Learn more about Michael and Go 4 It Racing Schools at www.go4itservices.com.