(AFX) – Kyle Petty will trade in his fireproof driving suit for a microphone — a part-time job for now.
He’ll take a five-race midseason break from driving the No. 45 car to work as a NASCAR race analyst for the TNT television network.
Petty will work six races for TNT this season, including one from inside his race car.
He wasn’t willing to give up driving in the June 24 race at Infineon Raceway, one of his favorite tracks, so he’ll do both.
Trying to call a race while driving might cause a few ‘hiccups,’ and Petty advised his new bosses to get ready to censor him if he has a shot at the victory.
‘If I’m in contention at the end of the race, you are going to need a 15 (second) delay,’ Petty said.
In a conference call Wednesday, Petty said he doesn’t necessarily consider the multi-year deal to be the first step in a full-time transition to TV commentator. The 46-year-old said he still could see himself driving competitively five years from now.
But with young drivers taking over NASCAR, Petty acknowledged the days of a driver racing into his 50s are likely coming to an end.
‘I think sometimes you have got to step up and be realistic and say the model has changed,’ said Petty, son of racing legend Richard Petty. ‘Personally, I’d like to drive forever. Realistically, I know I’m not going to be able to.’
Petty, the CEO of the Petty Enterprises racing team, said he has not yet decided who will race in his place while he’s in the booth. Petty said it could be one of the young drivers Dodge is grooming for a NASCAR career.
The No. 45 car originally was driven by Petty’s son, Adam, who was killed in an accident at New Hampshire International Speedway in May 2000. Petty acknowledged it will be strange to watch someone else drive the car.
‘I’m just the relief driver, anyhow … it will always be his car,’ Petty said.
TNT lost a member of its broadcast team when former driver Benny Parsons died of lung cancer complications in January. But Turner Sports executive producer Jeff Behnke said they don’t consider Petty to be Parsons’ replacement.
‘We had a role for Benny, and everybody at the Turner Sports family was saddened that he will not be able to share his insights,’ Behnke said.
Petty has called Busch Series races for TNT, allowing him to showcase his quick wit and offbeat sense of humor. Petty joked he already sings and yells at other drivers while he’s racing, so becoming a broadcaster really won’t be all that different.
Nor does he consider his dual roles as driver and team owner to be a conflict of interest with his role as a broadcaster, because so many other drivers already have their own TV gigs and radio shows.
‘I don’t think you have to separate it,’ Petty said. ‘I think the line has been blurred for a long time in our sport.’
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