KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T) "When we brought Robin Pemberton in, we explained to everybody at Petty Enterprises that he's not taking anyone's job, he's taking my job. In the past year or two years, I've had to do a multitude of...
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"When we brought Robin Pemberton in, we explained to everybody at Petty Enterprises that he's not taking anyone's job, he's taking my job. In the past year or two years, I've had to do a multitude of things at Petty Enterprises, plus drive a race car. Robin's first mission will be to take some of the stuff off me so I can go back to driving the race car. We'll go through a transition period. It's not going to happen overnight. He just picks up in our five-year plan. We had a plan on what we're trying to do and where we're trying to go. When we got our engine deal last October and we made that announcement, we set still had some changes to make. Robin just kind of fell into our lap. When he decided not to be a crew chief any more, we needed somebody of his caliber to come over here and run this deal.
"Robin is Vice President and General Manager of Petty Enterprises. Basically in the past, I've run everything and Brian Flynn has run the business side. We've run it together with a group of other people with us. Robin will create a third party to that, and by him creating a third party, it gives me an opportunity to step aside. It'll be Petty Enterprises, and I'll be involved in 99 percent of it, but I won't have to make every single call.
"We've taken a group that's used to building Ford engines and we're asking them to build Dodge engines. Now you're asking them to cut the number of Dodge engines they're going to build because they're only going to build one per weekend and not multiples per weekend. It'll create a little bit of a problem, but when you deal with an engine group the caliber of Mike Ege and Steve Allen, coming out of the Yates organization, I think they'll come out of the gate pretty quick.
"Right now, the stuff we're testing is our old stuff. We took them all of our old stuff and had them freshen it up. We've done a couple of tests this year, but if we're fortunate we may run some of the new stuff at Las Vegas. Daytona will be the first time we race it.
"John's team had a good year and finished 31st in the standings last year. You can't say they're ready to win, not more than Buckshot or the 45 car. If you look at our total group, John qualified well at a number of tracks, but his finishes weren't as good as where he qualified. Look at how bad Buckshot and I qualified, but we finished a lot of times as good as John. Buckshot had some decent runs, and John had an amazing amount of 23rd place runs. If you look at it from that perspective, there's not a 23rd place team out here that's ready to win on a regular basis. Not by any stretch were we ready to win as a group last year. This year, are we starting out in a position where we're ready to win? Probably not. We're going to have to build into it, but that's part of the overall plan, too. We've got to run a lot more consistent and a lot more competitive. Last year, we got really good at running 35th to 42nd. That's how simple it is. At the end of the year, we picked it up and got a lot better at running 25th to 35th. We did improve. I know that sounds stupid, but that was a big improvement for us, to be able to pick it up 10 positions at the end of the year. We moved from being in the last quarter of the field to the third quarter. Now, we've got to move into the first half and be competitive and then move into the top 10 before we're ready to win. I think any of our teams, and any team in Winston Cup racing can slide in there and win a race on any given Sunday. The point is to put yourself in position to win every single week. John had a shot at winning Bristol last year, but the 21 car won. What did the 21 car do the rest of the year? The same thing John did. There's two cars that had a shot at winning one race that really weren't a factor the rest of the year. That's nothing against the Wood Brothers and nothing against us. It's just a fact of life. I think when you look at the 24 and 40 and some of those guys, they were there week in and week out. We weren't ready to win races on a consistent basis last year by any stretch of the imagination. Until we're at that point, you really almost don't deserve to win.
"You know you're getting better. If we had run all year long and ran in the same place, then you'd say forget it. We started and improved and got better. All of our cars are basically the same cars, and all of our stuff is basically the same stuff. Buckshot has two cars down here, and they both run within five one-hundredths of each other. That's good. Our guys can copy and if we can copy a bad car we can copy a good car. We've just got to build a better car. Once we build a better car, we know we can copy it.
"Robin went to work at Petty Enterprises in '78 or '79. Steve Hmiel worked there before, went back to the modifieds and came back in '79. Mike Beam came in '79 or '80, so we were all there about the same time. We were all between 19 and 23. We were working with Dale Inman and Richard Petty. Nobody paid any attention to us. Little did anyone know that Robin would go on to win a bunch of races. Steve and Mike went on to have a lot of success, too. If we'd known that, we would have tried to keep everyone together. A lot of good, young guys have come through Petty Enterprises and they know how to win races. We've got to get 'em back to Petty Enterprises so we can win some more.
"We're not through making changes by any stretch. We started the year with 240 employees and we're down to about 160, but we feel like we've got 160 good employees. That's enough for what we need right now. We'll continue to expand in places we need to expand. We'll cut back in places we need to cut back. The point is, we've got to get better people. We've got to continue to work and improve on positions. We've got a lot of good people, and we've got a lot of people who can be good. Can we wait, do we have time to make them better or do we need to have to go get good people right now? We've got to answer that question to move forward.
"Your motivation changes. You look at life different as you get older. A lot of my motivation right now, is yeah, I want to win races. Do I want to win races for Kyle Petty? Probably not as much as I used to. I want to win races for Adam. I want to win races for Petty Enterprises, and I think that's the motivation now, to bring Petty Enterprises back from where we've been and what we've done to what we used to be. We need to quit looking back and saying, 'this is what we used to do.' We need to look ahead and say, 'this is what we can do.' That becomes the motivation, to put together a group of guys we can move forward with, whether it be John Andretti or Buckshot Jones or Robin Pemberton or Mike Ege Racing. If Kyle Petty doesn't win races and Buckshot Jones and John Andretti do, then that's OK, too. That'll be important."
ROBIN PEMBERTON (Vice President, General Manager Petty Enterprises)
"This is a good opportunity. I've been friends with the Pettys since I started. I was kind of looking for a change, looking for something new to do, not to be a crew chief and sit on the box, worrying about two tires or four tires. This is a different set of circumstances. I'll probably travel a lot. It's still challenging and it's still an opportunity to be in the midst of it and enjoy watching the races on Sunday. I was getting to the point where I wasn't enjoying it. It consumed me too much. The 20-race stretch really took a lot out of everybody. I've been on the road for 20 plus seasons. That Thanksgiving thing was tough. I don't get a chance to spend any time or take vacation time with my family. That was the only vacation we were going to be able to take as a family in almost two years because of my son's basketball practice and my other son's track practice. Everybody's in the same boat, but I had put a lot of stock in going on vacation with the family.
"I'll still be able to work hard on the race cars and not have to worry about the Sunday afternoon stuff. I've always been hands on. I've only been over there (Petty Enterprises) three or four days so far. You get down here and get around the race cars, it gets your blood flowing. I'm ready to get back to business.
"I had a little health issue last year, but it was more stress than anything. Our family doctor didn't like the way things were looking. I had some tests done and everything is all right. I was just tired and about nerved out. I'm ready to go now.
"There's a lot of potential at Petty Enterprises. I hadn't been there in 18 years, and as I walked around looking, a lot of things have changed. There's a lot of effort going forward. I liked what I saw and I like the potential. Kyle and I have been good friends for a long time, too.
"Some other teams had talked to me, and I had some other things that I was looking at. If this thing can get back on track and everybody can get focused, I'd like to be a part of it. We need a lot of work. Everybody is ready to win. I think John Andretti is good. Buckshot is awful young, and Kyle is ready to get back and get focused and get after it. A lot of things have to happen before we're ready to win.
"They've got good business people there. I hope I can give Kyle an opportunity to do what he likes, and that's drive a race car. I hope he doesn't worry about the shop as much.
"I thought about getting our of racing for good, but I didn't know what else to do. I've been so fortunate. Coming from upstate New York and moving down here with nothing in my pocket and to be able to have the friends that I have and to work on race cars and be around it. People you idolize growing up like Buddy Baker and Richard Petty are your friends. It's a great situation. It's like any kid growing up in Brooklyn and playing for the Yankees. That's how I feel."