Daytona 500: Media Day - Dodge drivers quotes, part 1

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006 Daytona International Speedway Media Day Notes, Quotes KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge Charger) COMMENT ON THE NEW PERSONNEL AT PETTY ENTERPRISES: "We're putting the band back together. To us, that's the way we ...

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006
Daytona International Speedway
Media Day Notes, Quotes

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON THE NEW PERSONNEL AT PETTY ENTERPRISES: "We're putting the band back together. To us, that's the way we kinda look at it. When we looked at it we'd made very little progress the last four or five years and we just weren't going in the right direction. We really had to go outside our circle. When we hired Robbie (Loomis) that was huge, and then when we hired Bobby (Labonte) that was even bigger. Then when Todd (Parrott) came that was just icing on the cake. I think everybody focused on those three guys, and that's good. I'm glad everybody is focused on those three guys. Along with those three guys came a multitude of other guys -- new shock guys, new guys for the pit crew, new guys that work at the shop that wanted to be a part of working with Robbie Loomis and Bobby Labonte and Todd Parrott. That makes the 45 team stronger. It helps Paul (45 crew chief Andrews) be able to work on the 45 team. I think we're in a lot of ways we're cautiously optimistic. We believe Bobby can win races and will win races in the 43 car. We believe that Todd can call races. Obviously he's done it over the last few years to win races. We believe that Robbie can adapt to his new job (Executive Vice President of Race Operations) and be able to take Petty Enterprises to another place from where we are right now.

"Now, is that going to happen in the first five races of the year? No it's not, well, anything can happen at Daytona, but take Daytona out of the equation. I'm looking at 36 races, a full season. Can that happen over the course of a full season? Can we get stronger? Can we get better? Can we grow? Yeah, that will happen, but we've got to temper our guys and say, 'yeah, it will happen.' We've just got to bide our time and we've got to wait for it. I think we're a lot more confident that it will happen."

IS ROBBIE LOOMIS LIKE A BROTHER TO YOU? "Robbie and I came to Daytona the first time together when I ran a Ford V-6 here. Prototype Engineering built the engines and that's when Ford was building its first V-6 program. Davey Allison and myself drove a Ford here. I guess it was '84, '85, '86, somewhere right along in there. We've known each other that long. For me to deal with Robbie and to have somebody come back to Petty Enterprises that you trust enough and respect enough to absolutely say 'here are the keys to absolutely everything, go ahead and run it the way you want to run it. Do it the way you want to do it.' It's funny because there's been a few times this winter he's called as said, 'What do you think about this?' I was like 'I don't think about it anymore. I used to think about it last year. Now it's your job to think about it.' So I don't think about it anymore, but we talk about stuff a lot like that. It's been easier on me over the winter. It's been easier on him over the winter to make that transition. Then with Todd coming in obviously it's been easier for him to step back. Robbie had always been a 43 guy when he was there. When he went to Hendrick he was a 24 guy. To be a 43/45/Petty Enterprises guy is a total different mindset for somebody, so for him to make that adjustment, he's done really, really good at it."

COMMENT ON BOBBY LABONTE AS A TEAMMATE: "Bobby has been great so far. How can Bobby not be great? I think his personality, the way he approaches racing, the way he approaches life, the way he approaches his family, obviously we couldn't have a better guy driving the 43 car, and I couldn't have a better teammate. That's somebody we want to build Petty Enterprises around. I said this when we hired Bobby. Petty Enterprises will always be known as the 43 team. That's the way it is. Our priority is to make that 43 team, with Bobby Labonte, the best team we have. That's our focus and that's our deal, to give him everything we've got to make Bobby Labonte and the 43 team a winner. Even though we are a two-car team, make no bones about it, we're focused on 43, 43, 43 because we have to build that back to survive. That's the program we're on."

HOW DID HIRING ROBBIE AFFECT GETTING OTHER EMPLOYEES? "I've been working on Bobby for about four years to tell you the truth because Bobby lives in the neighborhood right next door to where I live. I run through his neighborhood and he bikes down the highway and he'll bike through his neighborhood, but I think it was a domino effect. Robbie came and a lot of people under their breath were like 'what was that guy thinking? What's he thinking leaving Hendrick, leaving Jeff Gordon and going over there? What are they doing over at Petty Enterprises? They've done nothing the last seven, eight, 10 years? What would a guy be thinking to leave Hendrick and go over there. Then all of a sudden, Bobby starts thinking if Robbie's over there it might not be a bad place, so you get to talking to Bobby. Bobby comes on and all you guys are like 'something's up because there's another one going over there.' By the time Todd came, it's like 'let's go over there and see what's going on over there.' We had a lot of people that wanted to call and come in from a work standpoint. When you look at it like that, Robbie was definitely the big pillar and the big domino to fall. Bobby was just as big. When that happened I think a lot of other things happened that brought everybody in."

HOW DO ALL THE DIFFERENT HATS YOU WEAR TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR DRIVING? "You'd like to think it doesn't, but it does. I've probably seen it more this winter than I've ever seen it. This winter I didn't necessarily have to worry about talking to the engineering department and making sure everything they did got transferred to the cars to go to the wind tunnel. I didn't go to the wind tunnel at 3 o'clock in the morning like I did last year. I didn't spend as much time doing that stuff because Robbie was doing it. That's his job. You still spend a lot of time on the financial side because that's our business, but you didn't spend as much time doing other things. I think it does take away from it. It's hard to say how much. I'd like to be able to sit here and say if you're 100 percent that's one thing. If you do this now you're only 75 and if you do this now you're only 50. God only knows how much it takes away from you. Some days I feel like I'm just a driver and some days I feel like I should not be the driver and I should go and do something else. Some days I feel like I'm the owner and I should fire the driver, so that's kind of the way it is. You know what I mean? It really depends. Those ups and downs and those cycles have to take away from just being a Jeff Gordon or a Kurt Busch or a Tony Stewart that just focuses on driving racecars and that's all they've got to do. It's got to take away some."

ELABORATE ON THE FOCUS BEING ON THE 43 CAR: "The 43 car, and when I say the focus is on the 43 car, we told Bobby and I told Bobby personally that we will give you everything we have to make you a winner and to make you win races in the 43 car. If we have two things and one is a tenth better then you're going to get the one that's a tenth better. We're going to make sure we give you the best stuff. That's not to say the 45 is getting bad stuff. Hopefully as the 43 stuff moves up, as that water level moves up, the 45 will come up, too. When we came down here, the way it's worked out, one of us has a little bit better car in the wind tunnel than the other one, but one of us has a little bit better motor than the other one has, so it all kinda equals out. That seems to play itself out no matter what you do. No matter how much you try to give somebody better stuff or the same stuff it all ends up working itself out, but our focus has to be the 43 car. That's our brand. That's who we are. In a day in time when marketing is marketing is marketing, and our brand is 43, we can't afford to let that brand go away."

DO YOU DRIVE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO? "I drive because I want to. I don't drive just to keep a Petty in the seat of a car. You know my career has been a funny career. You guys know it because you've been around long enough. I've never been one when something came along, I never wanted to get to be 90 years old and say, 'you know, I had a chance to do that.' If something came along I wanted to do, I went and did it, whether it was music, a car dealership, it didn't make any difference. I got to the point in my career when Adam came along that I thought maybe it was time for me not to drive. Maybe it's time for me to be an owner and let Adam drive. Then Adam's accident happened. Once that enters your mind it's tough to take that out of your mind and go back to being a straight driver, so I probably lost a little bit there. Then you go back and look at you trying to run everything, you probably lose a little bit there. Now can you get some of that back? Yeah, you can get some of that back. Will you get 100 percent of that back? Let's be honest. That's why there's a seniors tour in golf. No, you don't get all of it back. You have to move on to another place. When you look at it that way, I can honestly sit here and say on my best day I'm not as good as some of these guys out here. On my best day, I'm better than a lot of these guys out here. I still believe that. That's one thing that keeps you out here and keeps you running."

WHICH DRIVER HAS THE VOICE IN THE GARAGE NOW? "That's a tough question. It's a different sport. It's a different place. It's not the same place and what I mean by that is there were times in the past when whether it was Richard Petty or Bobby Allison or Cale Yarborough or Darrell Waltrip or Dale Earnhardt could just go up in the truck and speak for everybody and speak for everything that's going on. That day is long gone. That day was coming to an end before Earnhardt's accident ever happened. The sport has changed. There's so many more outside influences. The manufacturers are so much more important today than they were five or 10 years ago. Let's go back to when they went from Monte Carlos and Oldsmobiles to Regals and Lemans and stuff like that. Did NASCAR say, 'you guys build a car and let's go to Daytona and test it to make sure it works before we go?' No. They came in one year and said, 'guess what boys? We're going from 115 inches to 110-inch wheelbase cars and these are the cars that are legal and we'll see you in Daytona in February. That's it. Now, with the car of tomorrow, the manufacturers are at every test. They're talking. They're walking the walk. They're talking with NASCAR. They're doing the R&D stuff with NASCAR, so drivers don't have to address those issues. Those issues are being addressed somewhere over here. Drivers don't have to address a lot of the issues and voice their opinions. If you do, you just go talk to Helton. You know what I mean? He's open to everybody. You just go talk to Brian, Brian's been open to everybody. In a lot of ways, it's given those guys an opportunity to focus on their areas of expertise, too, where the driver only has to focus on the driving part and not be a voice for everybody in the garage area. There's no way that me, a guy that's 45 years old, can speak for Kyle Busch. You know what I mean? He's got different priorities and different aspirations and different goals and he's in a different place in his life and in his career. For me to speak for him on a lot of issues would be totally wrong, any more than to let Jeff Gordon speak for me on the issues. He's in a different place in his career than I am. I don't think you have that anymore. I think a lot of that is just gone away."

WAS IT OUT OF WHACK WHEN EARNHARDT HAD THAT MUCH POWER? "I don't think it was out of whack. I just think it was old sport. It's your business, my business, any business, all of a sudden you wake up one day and something that used to happen isn't happening any more and you think let's go back and re-implement it and you go back and it doesn't work. It doesn't work in this model. I think that's the issue. It just doesn't work in this model any more. Even if he (Dale Earnhardt) didn't retire it wouldn't have been an issue because this sport was here and then did that all of a sudden and OK, I don't need that anymore."

COMMENT ON NASCAR'S PROGRESS WITH SAFETY: "This is the way I look at it. Sometimes perception appears to be reality but it's really not. Everybody believes that the day Dale got killed NASCAR went, 'Oh my God, we've got to get hold of this safety stuff. We've got to get ahead of this.' That's false. That is truly false. From the day Adam's accident happened, and I can speak on a personal level, there was not many days or weeks that went by that I didn't speak with Gary Nelson or Mike Helton or somebody from NASCAR about things they had on the table, on the blackboard that they were moving toward. Then when Kenny's (Irwan) accident happened, Tony's accident happened, momentum was beginning to gain. What happened was when Dale's accident happened, it moved from being an internal force to an external force. The guy that bought the ticket for the fourth row, the guy that bought the ticket for the 10 row, they began to voice their opinions. We all know that they way NASCAR reacts a lot of times is when the public says something they react to it. I have to be honest and say I think NASCAR was a lot more proactive in this situation than anybody is giving them credit for. I think you guys and the general public believe them to be reactionary and they only reacted after Dale's accident. They were already proactive before that. They already had things in the pipeline.

"Now, did Dale's accident speed that up? Yes, it did. A driver that you have to sell on safety shouldn't be driving. Let's just say that right off the bat because I don't want to drive with somebody that's crazy enough to throw caution to the wind. These guys that drive out here are professionals and they understand the consequences of every action they make on the racetrack. It may not look like it all the time, but we do understand that. When you look at it like that, I don't think it made it a tougher sell or an easier sell. I think it just sped everything up. Drivers were caught up in it whether you wanted to go with it or not they went along with it because it was moving so fast."

COMMENT ON CAR OF TOMORROW: "That's the big issue with the car of tomorrow. If we can make tires safer and walls safer what makes you think we can't make cars safer? The car is a safer car because the driver is moved over, because of the crush zone, because of the things they've implemented. When I hear other owners or fans or the press say, 'My God, that's got to be expensive--.' All right, now we're going to start putting dollars on people's lives. When you've lost a son, there's no price you can put on safety of a driver, no price at all. So, if I've got to scrap every car I've got and build brand new cars and it cost me $10 million to run a safer car for Bobby Labonte so every night he can get out and go home to Madison and Tyler, I'll pay that money as an owner. We as fans and we in the sport should be willing to take that responsibility. That's what it boils down to for me."

***

BOBBY LABONTE (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON DRIVING THE 43 DODGE: "Obviously that's a number that's got a lot of history behind it. To be a part of it is great. It looks great driving it. It looks great being there. It'd look a lot better in victory lane. That will mean a whole lot more. If we can go out there and be competitive with it and make sure Richard is proud of it, then I think that will be great."

IS THERE PRESSURE DRIVING THE 43? "I think we can all say that car and that team and that number has set a lot of records and what not, but I think you've got to be productive today and not live off what you've done in the past. I feel like we've got a neat program. We've got the number, the car, the owners, the name. I think you have to produce today, too. Hopefully when we do produce, that will make the history even cooler. It's an awesome opportunity to be able to drive it before you even hit the racetrack, but now let's hit the racetrack and run with it. If you can produce good things with it, it'll make it a whole lot better."

COMMENT ON PUTTING THE TEAM PERSONNEL TOGETHER: "It's a neat opportunity. All the Pettys do is race. There are no dealerships, no this or that. They race. With that being said, when they got Robbie and me and Todd that just added to Petty Enterprises. They had good people. Greg Steadman was crew chief last year and he's going to be overseeing some things. It's a great opportunity for him. For us to get together and try to make this thing work, it's probably one of those deals that wouldn't happen next year or last year. It just turned out that everyone was available at the right time."

DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE OF BEING THE GUY TO BRING PETTY ENTERPRISES BACK: "I'm not the great whatever. That's not me. We have to do it all together. If this car runs great, it ain't because of me or Todd or Robbie. It's all together. I don't feel added pressure. When I quit driving it one day I want to see 25 guys in line wanting to drive it because it must be a great car. You want people to want to drive the car. That would be better than any money you could get to have that feeling."

HAS THE BUDGET BEEN INCREASED TO MAKE IT A WINNING CAR? "The budget might have been decreased. I think before I said yes, I went there, and they've got stuff to work with. They might not have the luxury stuff like some teams, but as far as having the stuff to work with, they've got it. That's not a problem. A lot of the luxuries aren't there that some of the guys have built into their organizations because they've got so many millions to spend, but I think as far as racing goes, they worry about racing. They don't have to worry about anything else. I think the stuff that will make us race faster is there or is available to get."

DID ADDING LOOMIS, LABONTE AND PARROTT OPEN THE DOOR FOR OTHER NEW EMPLOYEES AT PETTY ENTERPRISES? "I had talked to Kyle prior to him hiring Robbie and when Robbie came on board then they came back to me. I see depth here now. Somebody had to make that decision to get Robbie. That was the first domino and it led to me and Todd down the road. We've got a new pit crew coach that we probably wouldn't have got and some other interest has been sparked. One guy left the week after I came there, too, so it hasn't been 50-50, but some come and some go. Everybody wants to live in Charlotte, so that's a little difficult there, but it was a bonus to me."

COMMENT ON PRESEASON TESTING: "Todd was sick when we came to Daytona to test. He was sick, so we did that test without him. Robbie and Greg were here and it was OK. Kyle came the next week and he got to try some stuff we didn't get to try. Kyle was better than we were, so we implemented all that in our car. The Las Vegas test, we weren't as happy as we wanted to be with that car, so they went back and cut it up. It's coming back more to the tune of what we needed. We went to Kentucky to test and Texas to tire test. Kentucky, I don't know what you can learn there. At Texas, you've got a lot of grip but you don't get to try a lot of things you want to try. We went to Vegas and it was a lot worse because the track was flatter. We learned we couldn't learn anything here and we needed to get better here, so who cares about there. The guys in the fab shop worked themselves silly to put things together. To come back and cut a car apart and put it back together, it didn't seem like a problem. They were willing to do it, so whether we run good or bad, that enthusiasm excites me. We've got some new direction. We'll find out if we screw up here or there and we'll make it better or we'll be good."

WHAT'S A REALISTIC GOAL FOR SPEEDWEEKS? "Well, I'm not going to say anything better than last year because I was dead last last year. It'd be great to have a top 10. If we could finish the race and finish in the top 10 that would be awesome. I'm not trying to blow smoke. We might not be as good as we think we are, but our enthusiasm is there. I think we've got a good car we can race with. Right now, it would be great to stay out of trouble and finish in the top 10. That would be confidence for the team."

WHAT WOULD BE A SUCCESSFUL SEASON? "It would be neat to make The Chase and win a race. You're taking a guy that finished 20 something in points and a team that finished 20 something in points. Realistically to get in the top 10 is going to take a lot of work, there's no doubt about it. We know we've got that in front of us. All I can say is we're going to give it our best shot."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Richard Petty , Bobby Allison , Mike Helton , Robbie Loomis , Cale Yarborough , Kyle Busch , Davey Allison