Petty Enterprises has announced beginning in December the race organization will relocate to Mooresville, North Carolina. They have entered a two-year agreement to lease race shop space currently used by Robert Yates Racing.
The #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge and the #45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil/Wells Fargo/Tire Kingdom Dodge will both compete from this location in the 2008 Sprint Cup Series.
The move will begin in December and is intended to be completed by the end of the year. The shop is 85,000 square feet with 30,000 additional square feet for fabrication. Petty Enterprises currently has a Fabrication Shop in Thomasville, North Carolina. It is expected that every facet of Petty Enterprises, including fabrication, will move to Mooresville.
This is the first move for the organization since its inception 1949. 268 wins, 10 championships and nine Daytona 500 championships have come from Level Cross.
This move continues the commitment to winning by Petty Enterprises.
I'd like to let Richard say a few words about this decision:
"Good morning everyone. This is something that a lot of people new back in the spring when they had the media tour at the shop. Robbie (Loomis) kind of let it out of the bag that we were looking to move to a different part of the country. Since then, we have looked for some land and looked for some buildings. The Robert Yates building came up a little while ago and we said, 'Hey, this might be a good place to go see if it will work like we want to before we go spend a lot of money and all that stuff.' It's not exactly a location that we would choose, but it's closer than Level Cross.
"We are going to go over to Robert's and see what is going on. Maybe try to look in the near future to buy some land and make our own building in another area- maybe between Mooresville and Level Cross. We just felt like, over a period of years, we've been in Level Cross for 50 or 60 years, and it worked for us, but over a period of time the face of racing has changed so much. As it changed, we didn't change as quickly as some of it. We said, 'OK, we've got to get back into the fold here.' I think everyone got together.
"We got together with our partners, our sponsors and said, 'What do you think is the best deal?' I think everyone agreed, even the guys in the shop and stuff, that we hate to leave Level Cross, but for us to get more competitive we feel like we need to move. So that's what we are doing right now. As soon as Robert can get his stuff out we'll get our stuff in.
Q: "Could you just talk about the sadness involved in that place, not only for you, but if you could talk about leaving that place as an active racing operation? Also, for traditional NASCAR fans who sort of felt like 'as long as Petty Enterprises is still in those little white buildings there, there's some NASCAR history involved, could you talk about the sadness both for you and for traditional fans."
Petty: "I'm gonna look at it personally first. I was born in the house right beside the shop and I've always worked out of there. A couple of years we worked a little bit out of Kannapolis (N.C) with Curb, but we still had the shop operating. We're not closing the shop down, per say, we're just trying to figure out now what we're really gonna do- what we're gonna put into the shop part of it.
"Petty Enterprises, as far as Lee Petty, what he started and the racing part, we're gonna move out the majority of that, I'm not saying we won't move something else back into the shop as far as a race car or an airplane, I don't know, something, the big deal is that no matter where we were at or whatever, when you walk through the gates at Level Cross you walked through NASCAR history. We were there when it started, when it went up and when it went down and all that kind of stuff. Its really, really hard to do, plus we were so much a part of the community, its kind of hard for us and for the people around the community to accept 'hey, they're not there anymore'. We hate that part of it, but again we feel like for us to go forward and to try to keep up with it. NASCAR is going and as they grow we just felt like we had to try to look at us growing somewhere a little bit down the line too. This is our first venture into something like this. One thing about it, we're gonna be like a yo-yo. We're gonna always have this home if we need to we can always come back."
Q: "I'm curious to find out how temporary this situation is. Are you going to wait till next off season..."
Petty: "Really, we had the opportunity to look around. We looked at a lot of places from Salisbury (N.C.) on into Charlotte and up into Mooresville for some land or basically a position to land in. We got to talking to Robert awhile back and he said he might have an opportunity for us to look at his shop and I said 'Okay, this is a good landing place.'
"We're not looking at this as being a permanent Petty Enterprises home. This is a step toward a home. We felt like if we went over there and looked around and said 'Okay, we need to be in this particular area or somewhere in another area,' then we make that decision. That's the reason we went and talked to Robert about just a two year plan, to know that we're gonna stay there for two years. If we decided to build another place tomorrow, it would take another year or year and a half to get everything done so that we could move into it. Really, I don't see it as a permanent home, I'm not saying it won't be, but right now I don't see it as a permanent home."
Q: "Thank you and good to talk to you Richard, I have two questions and I'll start with the first one, I remember when you raised your kids and everybody would say 'How are you guys so balanced and you always said it was because they all came and stayed at Level Cross so first questions is, all your kids grew up as they are because they were raised there, is that hard to see it move on from there for that reason?"
Petty: "I don't know that from the kids' stand point that it's that much personal being in Level Cross except that it's their home. The race part probably isn't as important to them as it's where grandma lives, ya know? I think that's probably more important than the race shop per say especially as NASCAR grows and used to, we ran all the races right close and the kids could go to all the races then we got to going all over the Untied States, they couldn't go to them all so the time changes on that."
Q: "What makes you more competitive by moving into the Yates building? Why do you have to move to be more competitive? Is it team members you can get? What is it that will help you now?"
Petty: "Looking at the overall situation, we have enough room where we're at. It's not the buildings and stuff as much as the personnel we hope to be able to attract. You got to figure that the majority of your pit crew or your workers or your engineers or your painters or whatever, when they come from Wisconsin or somewhere they come to the Mooresville area because that's where all the racing stuff is. It's an hour and a half from Mooresville to Level Cross so if they come and settle in Mooresville it's kinda hard to ask these guys to drive an hour and a half to work and an hour and a half back home, that's three hours on the road. Not that they wouldn't like to work for Petty Enterprises, they just can't uproot their families a lot of times and move."
"If this is where the core of the people are then maybe we'll look at going to where the core is at and it won't take us long to figure out if that's the right solution or not. Again, one reason that when the Robert Yates building came up it was a good opportunity was to go test the waters to see if this is what we really want to do on a permanent basis."
Q: "First off can you just talk about how many employees this will impact, how many people will be moving and leaving the area to go to the new shop?"
Petty: "We already have a lot of people from the Salisbury/Mooresville area that do come to work. Probably, we're splitting half and half. In other words, we've probably got 20 people that really live in the Level Cross area and then the other hundred people are scattered around in other areas. When we look at it from that standpoint, some guy is already driving a half-hour or 45 minutes to Level Cross and he turns around and goes the other way he's still got just a half hour going the other way. We think we've hit a pretty happy medium here, but again, we're just gonna have to throw it out there and work with the people and try to make it work for everybody."
Q: "Also Richard, we saw the Wood Brothers do this a few years ago. Why didn't you guys make this move sooner?"
Petty: "Well, we didn't see a whole lot of success with the way the Woods Brothers did it. Also, I think our main concern with Petty Enterprises was we had so many guys that have been working with us for 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years, we have some people that have worked over there for 40 years. It's hard to say 'Hey guys, we appreciate what you guys have done but we're moving.' So we had to work around and figure a position for these guys. You can't just say thank you and leave. So what can we do to keep these guys in a job because without those people doing their job five, 10, 15, 20 years ago we wouldn't be in existence so how do we make it work on both sides. How do we make it work with older workers and with the newer workers? That has been our biggest problem right there."
Q: "Also, were you the last one in upper management to be convinced that this move was the right thing and if so how did they do it?"
Petty: "Yeah, I think I was probably the last one, they worked on me for about a year or a year and a half. In fact, it had been mentioned years ago. They kept working at me and working on Kyle and working on me. I don't guess they worked on Linda a whole lot about it but they worked on it. One day I went in and I said 'Look guys, what do you guys think is going to be the best future for Petty Enterprises?' You're running this part here and another guy is running this part and another guy is running this part over here. Let's get all these people together and say what do you all as a company think that we can do to make the company go forward? Not what I think, because I'm not there on a day-to-day basis making all the calls on an individual basis, y'all are. So I said 'What do you think?' Over a period of time, even some of the management, when we told them we were going to do this they said 'Whoa, wait a minute,' but once they go home and they think about it for about a week and they come back and say 'You're right, for Petty Enterprises to go forward we think we need to take this chance and go do it.' So everybody kind of got on board as far as the management and then they convinced me that I needed to sort of push along with them."
Continued in part 2