Bristol II: Kyle Petty - Dodge interview

KYLE PETTY, NO. 45 GEORGIA-PACIFIC/NORTHERN QUILTED DODGE CHARGER "This is a little bit different type program than what we've looked at in the past from a pure sponsorship dollar, it's more of a marketing type platform and it's more of a ...

KYLE PETTY, NO. 45 GEORGIA-PACIFIC/NORTHERN QUILTED DODGE CHARGER

"This is a little bit different type program than what we've looked at in the past from a pure sponsorship dollar, it's more of a marketing type platform and it's more of a cause-related marketing-type platform. So that's what we're looking at. We're excited about our potential there.

"Obviously our association with Ray Evernham with our Ray Evernham Engines this year has really stepped us up to another level. At the same time I think we realized that we needed to go back to the drawing board a little bit with our Dodges. And I've said that before. Switching to the Dodge Charger this year for us has been a godsend because it gives us an opportunity to start over from scratch at a time instead we would have to go back and re-engineer some stuff that we already had. So, the Charger has been a huge plus for us.

"We had the best run I've had in a long time up here the first race -- I guess we finished eighth. But we've run stronger as a group this year. The Cheerios Dodge Charger and our Dodge Charger have run a lot stronger this year than we did last year. So we have seen some improvement. There are a couple of announcements other than sponsorship stuff that we'll be making before the end of the year that are pretty big announcements, too, so there is a lot of really, really good stuff happening at Petty Enterprises."

Can you address the new Dodge nose?

"I think the new Dodge nose, I think the Dodge Motorsports Engineering group -- John Fernandez, Bob Wildberger, Denise Berecz -- they went to NASCAR earlier in the year, as far as back as probably May or June, something like that, and really kind of layed out that we were having some issues with where we're at. Everybody knows we're having some issues with the trash on the racetrack because our nose stands out. Because of that, we catch a lot of trash and it causes overheating problems a lot of places. You can't really account for that and you've got to run less tape which hurts you from an aero perspective to make sure you get back to the same place, so that's a little bit different.

"Talking with Robin at the time and John and the NASCAR car powers, they said 'Go back and look at it' and they've looked at it. Hopefully they'll be submitting something, a variation on the nose that we have. It may not be a totally brand new nose, but hopefully it will keep the same Dodge Charger theme. I think that's important to the manufacturer and I know it's important to Dodge as a company to keep that so when you look out across there you can tell the Dodge Charger from all the other cars right now. I think that's a big issue for Dodge and the manufacturer so I think that's a big point for us. I think we've got the go-ahead to go ahead and look at it. Ray's team has been a leader in it, I know the Ganassi team -- Andy Graves and those guys -- have worked tirelessly on it. The Penske crowd has worked on it, all the Dodge teams are really behind this project and have really worked hard to get something to submit. There's going to be pretty quick here. There may something, there may not be anything, we'll just have to wait and see on that."

How do you feel about the testing changes?

"As far as the testing programs, I really don't have an issue with testing per se. I think in a perfect world we would just test unlimited and that's just the way it is. The more money you've got the more you can test, and sorry, that's just the way the sport is. Because we do participate in a sport unlike golf or stick-and-ball sports where we can practice every day and it doesn't cost us anything but time. Every time we go practice it's $100,000, $150,000 or $200,000 every time you go test at a racetrack. So we don't have a sport where you're going to spend $200,000 a day and test 365 days a year. It's not that type of sport.

"At the same time, the way the schedules are working out now, you're expecting Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart and guys like that to perform at Michael Jordan-like levels on two hours of practice a week. It's unheard of in any other sport. If I put your golf clubs in the closet and said you could come out and play one round a week and you're playing for a million dollars every time you play, it's tough. It's tough to get better and it's tough to make your game better.

"At the same time, I look at what NASCAR is really looking at from a cost-saving perspective and trying to level some of the playing fields between the teams that are well-financed and the teams that aren't well-financed. You look at it and say 'Okay, that's a big plus'. To break it down in manufacturers is one way of doing it, to break it down into car numbers is another way of doing it, to break it down in points is another way of doing it. There's a lot of ways of doing it, you still come out with the same thing.

"The one thing I think it does do is take the teams that are farther back in points -- we're 28th, 29th or 30th -- and put you on same test schedule and test equivalency as the teams that are first, second or third in points. I think that's one thing that NASCAR is looking to do is to keep that gap from getting wider to try to control it, so I really don't have an issue. In turn, if they come out and say these are racetracks where testing is mandatory -- just like Daytona is mandatory, that's your test. If you don't go to Daytona then you've just lost that test. If they came out and said there's 10 races or whatever there are and you test at these places, and if you don't test there, then you lose that.

"I think, the other thing they really need to look at, obviously, with so many new drivers coming in the series next year, with Reed and Stremme and guys like that. I do believe that those guys and rookie drivers coming in need a few more tests and time at a few different race tracks because you really want those guys to be comfortable with a heavier car. Even though they run the Busch Series, and they're well-versed on these tracks, I do believe to bring them up and let them test would be a little bit better thing. I think they're still up in the air on some things and probably got some things settled and it will come out here before long."

How long do you plan to keep driving and will Jeff Green be back next year?

"Right now, Jeff Green will be back in the No. 43. There's been a lot of rumors and a lot of stuff going on. But right now, where we are with General Mills, where we are with Dodge as a manufacturer, where we are with our stuff, we're pretty much status quo for next year. Hopefully we'll be adding some different personnel and doing some different things there, but I feel pretty confident with where we're at. Obviously at this time of year in this sport at this period of time, you don't want to be caught without a driver. It's one of those deals where somebody is going to get caught out right now. By bringing up those young drivers you're into that situation.

"From the No. 45 perspective, I've said it all along, one day I'm going to wake up and something is going to change at Petty Enterprises and something's not going to change at Petty Enterprises or I'm going to wake up one day and decide to jump on my Victory motorcycle and ride around the country three or four times or not drive a racecar anymore. When that day comes, that's what I'm going to do. Until that happens, I still enjoy driving a racecar.

"It's like I've said before. No nine-year-old kid in the world that wants to be a racecar driver ever goes to bed at night dreaming of signing autographs at Target. They dream about driving a racecar. That's what they dream about doing. You dream about sitting in that car and hanging onto that steering wheel and racing against the greatest drivers in the world. In that way, I'm still a little bit of a nine-year-old boy, where I still enjoy getting in that racecar and hanging onto that steering wheel and riding around in circles. When I quit enjoying that part of it, then I'll get out of it.

"I can put up with the other part of it and go through the headaches of the owners' part and the sponsorship part and the appearance part and all that part just to be able to go out there tonight. Every Saturday night and every Sunday afternoon it not the greatest day in the world, but from my perspective, it's a good day to be able to sit in that car. One day, and it's getting closer, I'm on that side of my career and I'm smart enough to know that. I'm 45, so I've probably got three or four years, four or five years, maybe one year, who knows."

Isn't the testing rule more about keeping the tires out of the hands of manufacturers rather than cutting costs?

"That is an issue, and that's a very valid point. I think Goodyear coming up with the leasing program that they have is a valid point. At the same time, let's be realistic and look at the tire industry as a whole, not just Goodyear, but let's look at the tire industry as a whole. It's an industry that's struggled for the last few years. It's struggled with sales, it's struggled through a lot of things from bad publicity with some of the rollovers that certain manufacturers have had. So it's an industry that has struggled.

"You know, right now, say they bring 2,000 tires per week to the racetrack. I don't know what they bring, but let's just use that as a number. The way it works right now is they're building 2,000 and if we run this same tire next week they have to come with 2,000 again. So there's a lot of repetitiveness and a lot of wastefulness because a lot of these tires will be taken back to race shops and even if you don't test them or look at them from an engineering standpoint, they just waste. That runs the price up for Goodyear, that runs the for the teams, that runs the price up for a lot of things, because you're not maximizing your inventory because a lot of inventory is wasted out there. I think the lease program is a really good program.

"I think what we got into, from the engineering side, as Goodyear has always, Goodyear is like any other business where they've advanced so far that the tire test that we do now for Goodyear are not so much a tire test as much as a tire confirmation. We're just confirming what they already have engineered and what they already know through their modeling and through some of the computer programs they have. So to be able to model a tire and be able to say this is the perfect tire for Bristol and go up there and run it and have trouble with it or not have trouble with it, they already pretty much know a lot of the factors that are going to come in when they get up there.

"So what they're trying to do with teams like us, through our manufacturers at Dodge, teams like the Gibbs teams and the Hendricks teams and their associations with their manufacturers, we've taken to cutting the tires apart and figuring out how the tires are made. We're modeling the tires in our models and really understanding the tires in a little bit different way than just temperature wise, caster, camber and that type stuff. Goodyear has said they will give us this information without you taking these tires, cutting them up and doing all that stuff and having to go through that. That will save us costs, because that, for us, is an expensive proposition to take every tire that Goodyear makes and go through that process with every single tire. So for Goodyear to come out and give us that is a big step for Goodyear.

"I think it is part of NASCAR controlling a little bit more of it and trying to keep everything. But I go back to the same thing, it all goes hand in hand. You can't do one without the other. We can't limit testing without limiting the tires. You can't limit the tires without limiting testing because you're going to get into stuff where you've got 12 tests left but you've got no tires to use. So by them basically saying we're going to let you test here and here are the tires you can use or buy and you can test here and here are the tires you can't use, but here are the places we're not recommending you test and we're not selling you tires for that.

"That might be okay in the long run. Everybody is going to complain about that to begin with but in the long run as it shuffles some folks out who are going to run for a couple of years on the tires they have stockpiled right now. That's what I'm trying to say. We can still go to Kentucky and Nashville and places like that to test just on the tires we have now. Once we deplete that it will be more under control.

Are there ever situations where the tire you're asked to run on just doesn't work?

"Yes, but I don't there is ever a circumstance where a tire doesn't work. I've never run into it but one time in the entire time I've drove on the Cup circuit and that was at Dover. They stepped in and brought new tires in on Sunday morning to allow the race to happen. That tire did not work at Dover that day. Here's the way that I look at it sometimes -- we've had issues as we've gone to softer tires, as we've gone to certain things, as the technology of the cars has moved forward. Sometimes the technology of these crews out here and what they learn and what they do is a lot faster than moving the big company of Goodyear from left to right. Goodyear does their testing in January and February for California but by the time we go back to California we're running on coil-bound springs or we've got more advanced shock packages but that's the same tire six months later. The cars have advanced past that tire.

"The other thing that happens is that Goodyear gives you a recommended tire pressure. If it says 30 and you're running 12 and it fails, you shouldn't point your finger at Goodyear. The product was designed to run at 30 pounds. If you're going to be willing to run 12 pounds in it, you're going to be taking a gamble that that tire may fail. Just like on a road car, if you guys look at your road cars and you're heading down the highway and your pressure says 36 pounds per tire and you're willing take off down the highway towing a boat and you want to run 20 pounds in all four tires, don't complain when those tires overheat and blow out. Don't call the manufacturer. You didn't use the product in the correct way, any more than sticking your hand in a toaster. That's for toast, not for your hand.

"If you look at it sometimes there are a lot of circumstances that circle around and come back. Sometimes when we have tire issues it's not just the tires. There are other things that blend into that. But the tire itself, to optimize the temperature, to optimize all that stuff, these teams are constantly trying to find ways around that tire pressure and to maximize the tire better."

Would it be cheaper for the team to practice on Thursday?

"Some 99 percent of the people who go to the racetrack to test don't test. They set up for the race. That's not a test. A test is where you go and try different springs and different shocks or try bizarre stuff. It would be cheaper for the teams, all the way around, to open up testing completely and test every Monday after the race. That's a test. You've already paid for a hotel room on Sunday night, all your crew is already here, all the tires are already out on pit road. If you really want to test, not practice, not set-up, if you really want to test, let's come back to Bristol tomorrow. Let's have an open day tomorrow for all competitors the day after the race. That's a true test.

"What most of the teams do is go to the racetrack two weeks early to set up for4 that race, to get a leg up on the competition, to set up for that race. That's where NASCAR tries to limit that from the well-funded teams to the less-funded teams so that the well-funded teams don't go set up for every week, so that they can only do it six times but so can the less well-funded teams. They can do it six times. And that's where the separation comes in. If it was a true test, if we could 'test test', then all testing could be overdone. But we don't test, we practice. We set up and there's a difference in the terminology and I think you've got to kind of divide that out."

Are you surprised by the tire issue yesterday in the Busch Series?

"I'm absolutely dumbfounded by that. I look at that, the issue that happened yesterday, and where the sport is today, that's something that you would have more likely 15 years ago. That almost takes the sport back to a time when you almost drove the car to the racetrack and raced them. That's all you can say about it. There's no excuses. There's no anything. And if we're going to talk about tires, that's a safety issue, that is a huge safety issue. If you're taking rubber and tearing that rubber and the molecules apart by adding something to the surface of the tire to change the compound of what that tire is. That is wrong, that's just totally wrong. There's no excuse. There's no anything. That's the first I've heard of it. Guys don't even do that in Saturday night racing much anymore. That's gone that far down. So for a group to come into this sport at this level and attempt that is stupid. That's all you can really say about it. I think there are times when you look at things that have happened in the past to cars going through post-race inspection or pre-race inspection, you say 'I wish I'd thought about that and tried it', but this is one of those ideas that is stupid. I glad I didn't try it, I'm glad I didn't think about it. It's stupid, that's how it is."

What do you think the penalty should be for it?

"I think there should be suspension for a long, long, long time and the fine should be big, big, big because of the safety. Let me ask you a question. Let's say the car does that and qualifies. And then he starts on those tires. And let's say the compound in those tires, he's degradated that compound so bad that he runs 15 laps here, blows the tires, bounces off the wall, something goes up in the stands, he takes out four other people, somebody else is injured and goes to the hospital. Now was it worth soaking those tires? The consequences are almost like, this is a bad example, but it's almost like being a drunk driver and making it home safe. Yeah, you got home, but that's all you can really say. Because if you retraced what could have happened, it is so horrendous that you had to look at it that way. I think you have to look at this the same way. I don't think there is any excuse for this. There's not. I'll go on record forever saying there's no excuse for what could have happened on those tires."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Jeff Green , John Fernandez , Ray Evernham