Fontana: Dodge - Kyle Petty interview

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge) COMMENT ON 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHARITY RIDE "The picture in Scene this week of Geoff Bodine, we came by the racetrack here on the very first Charity Ride, this facility. I won't call it a ...

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge)

COMMENT ON 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHARITY RIDE

"The picture in Scene this week of Geoff Bodine, we came by the racetrack here on the very first Charity Ride, this facility. I won't call it a facility. The only thing that's left is a water tower in the middle. It's funny because if you look in the Scene, if you look at the wall, Geoff is standing in front of an old furnace or an old smelter or something, anyway we all took a brick from that when we left. I use one as an old door stop at the house. That's where the speedway was going to be built. We were very blessed on the Charity Ride. We went by this place. We went to Kansas City before they built it. We went to Chicago before they built it. The Charity Ride just happened to be going through areas and we ended up in different places.

"That was 10 years ago and there were 35 or 40 of us. Now there's 160 or 170. Over the last three or four years we've raised a substantial amount of money. We hope to be able to raise and maintain a level of $800,000 to $1 million a year to help keep the camp up and running. The Charity Ride is one of the founding members. To become a founding member you had to donate in the million dollar level. Tony Stewart became a founding member of the camp last year when he made a pledge over the next six or seven years. The Charity Ride has built the aquatic center at the camp. It's pretty cool.

"They leave this morning from Palm Springs. They're going to Vegas and they're going to do the Driving Experience today in Vegas. They'll leave Vegas tomorrow and while we're racing here they're going to ride along the North Rim of the (Grand) Canyon and come back down to Flagstaff. We'll fly from here to Flagstaff to meet them. Then we're going to Roswell, N.M., and meet Elvis and some other people. We're going to Oklahoma City up to Branson, Mo., and then down to Tupelo (Miss.) to deliver some mail to Elvis. Then we're going to Atlanta and we're doing a big thing in Atlanta with Coca-Cola, Georgia Pacific and Chick-Fil-A because Chick-Fil-A is the major partner this year and they're all headquartered in Atlanta. Then we're going to the camp and these people will be the first people to really see the camp. Fox came to the camp the other day and filmed some stuff, but we have ask them not to show it yet.

"It's the 10th year, and it's a pretty big deal for us. It was a stupid idea that has hung on for a little while, kinda like NASCAR really."

COMMENT ON VICTORY JUNCTION CAMP

"The original intent of the ride, we stopped at different children's hospitals all across the country. It was all about giving restricted funds, and what we mean by restricted funds is we wanted our money to go to pay the bills for kids that couldn't pay the bills. We've been a lot of places. When Adam came along, he was racing for Sprint, and he did a lot for Star Bright World and the Star Bright Foundation. That connects different children's hospitals via the internet so that a kid in California can talk to a kid in Miami about having surgery. It's not what the parents say or the doctors say. They can talk to a kid they've never met before and talk about surgery. It connected the kids at their level. At the same time, we'd been to a camp in Florida called Boggy Creek. They're building a sister camp to that camp and our camp here in Malibu, and it's called Painted Turtle. It should open a little after we open our camp. We'd talked about building a camp before Adam's accident. After Adam's accident we put everything on hold. After a little while we thought it was one thing we could do to honor his memory and honor what he had done. We talked my father into giving us the property. We've got 70 acres. We've got Goody's Headache Powders, they sponsored the medical center. We've got a cafeteria, gymnasium, theatre, arts and crafts, swimming pool, horse center, outdoor amphitheatre, 16 cabins. Harris-Teeter has a commissary area, we have a beauty shop area. Jim France donated a Jumbo Tron, it's right in the middle of the thing. It's not like any other camp. We have 250,000 square feet under a roof. It's a big place. It's not just a bunch of cabins out in the woods. We see chronically ill children. Every week we'll see children with like diseases.

"It gives these kids an opportunity to be kids. Most of the kids we see will come straight from a hospital to the camp. If they're well enough they'll go home for a short period of time. A lot of them will go straight back to the hospital. I'll tell you a story that pretty much defines what it's all about. Kids can be cruel sometimes. When kids are young and have a disease, they feel isolated. They feel like they're the only kid in the world that has this disease, whatever disease it is. At Boggy Creek they tell a story about this little boy who came to camp that had hemophilia. He's all excited. He's one of the first campers there. The ratio of campers to counselors is 2-1, so a lot of people were there. As the day wore on he kinda withdrew into a corner. The counselors thought he was afraid to be without his parents or whatever. By the end of the day they sat him down and talked to him and asked him what the problem was. The little boy's comment was that everybody had lied to him. He thought he was going to a camp for kids with hemophilia. They told him all the kids had hemophilia. He said they can't have because they all look normal. His self image of himself was that he didn't look normal. When he looked in the mirror he didn't see a normal kid, but when he saw all the other kids that had hemophilia he saw normal kids. It helped him break through, and that's what it's all about. We're really excited about having our first group on June 20 this year."

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SUCCEED AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY?

"I don't know what it takes to succeed. It's one of the nicer tracks we run at. As far as coming in and going out, the traffic pattern we use as crew members and drivers and the racing surface itself is good. We can run two wide, three wide down the straightaways. As the track got older it's expanded. We've had some decent races here. I don't think you've had a great race. This is a sister track to Michigan, and there's only been a few great races at Michigan. It takes late cautions at a racetrack to get great races at places like this. Sometimes places like this can run without cautions. That's the variation on this racetrack. You can have a car that's not exactly right and kinda make some time up. You're not going to win the race and you're not going to run up front, but you can make some time up, unlike some of the other racetracks we run. Our guys have worked hard getting our stuff better. Jeff qualified third yesterday, and that's really, really good for Petty Enterprises. The Cheerios Dodge was really good yesterday. From the time they unloaded he thought he was going to be really good. We chose to work on race stuff yesterday, and that's what we did earlier in the year when we had only 43 cars at the racetrack like we do here. We chose to go one route, and they chose to go another route. Hopefully what we did yesterday will help them because what they did yesterday helped us. We picked up a second in qualifying by throwing some of the stuff they did under our cars. For us to come here and be successful, we need to run somewhere in the top 10 or 20. We don't have to have a top five car. We don't have to have a top 10 car. We need to be in the teens somewhere. We've struggled to get back to where we were two years ago as an organization. We look at it a little different than some of the other teams. We're probably a year to 18 months behind where we thought we should be. It's a fun place to race. If you've got a good car, you can run good here."

COULD FUTURE SCHEDULES POSE PROBLEMS FOR THE CHARITY RIDE?

"We've been blessed the past few years. We either get a late April, early May date or we get a June or July date. I don't really see a lot of that changing. We've always left from California and I really don't see a lot of that changing. If it does, it doesn't affect us. There's gonna be an off weekend in there somewhere. As long as we get a weekend somewhere, in a moderate to warm part of the year we'll be OK. We'd like to have a later date because we'd like to start at Seattle or Portland or somewhere like that and come through that part of the country."

COMMENT ON PETTY ENTERPRISES

"We went through 2001 and had a really terrible year on the racetrack and a really good year off the track. We started 2002 and things started coming together for both teams. About two-thirds through that year, we seemed to lose our plan. It transferred all the way to 2003. It's up to management to lead, and I think we lost focus and direction. We wasted a year, all of 2003 and when you look back maybe parts of 2002. We lost that part of our plan. The last part of 2003, we got back on track so we could start this year somewhere close to where we needed to be. We started close. Jeff's car here is our second design Dodge this year. It's the first one off the plate. From that perspective that gives us a lot of hope. Hopefully we're back on plan a little bit. I think Mike Ege and our engine stuff has gotten a little bit better this year. Our cars have gotten a little bit better. More importantly, we're back on the plan we needed. I don't look at it as being a financial issue or a driver issue or crew issue. I have to look in the mirror and say it's more of a management issue than anything."

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO MARKET RACES BETTER IN NEW MARKETS?

"I don't think any one group can do one thing. I don't think myself going out here and standing beside Interstate 10 and waving a sign that says I've got tickets is going to help. I think everybody has to do something. Sponsors have to be willing to... if you look at promotions our sponsors run, this is not a knock on sponsors, but they go where they sell the most of whatever it is. The Southeast. In a lot of ways, our sponsors consider this a national sport, but they still spend two out of every three dollars in the Southeast. They are going to have to come and make an impact on the local market here whether it be at a Ralph's or Albertson's if it's a grocery store chain, or a Target or Home Depot or Lowe's, they're going to have to start making the people aware.

"If you look at it that way, the drivers are going to have to be willing to make trips to California to do autograph sessions. I don't think I've ever been out here in the L.A. market when I haven't done something for Hot Wheels or Georgia Pacific. People come out here better than 80 percent of the places we go. It's amazing. We did some stuff with some department store chains, and I couldn't believe it. I really couldn't. The driver has to be willing to do that. We can't just come out here in a Ralph's or Albertson's and say we're ready to sign autographs for Coca-Cola. It's got to be a sponsor deal.

"On the other hand, these guys have got to promote. They've got to do ads and billboards along with NASCAR. You can't have the mentality you have in the Southeast -- build it and they will come. You've got professional baseball, basketball, hockey, when you're going head to head with that, I don't care if you've got a two-mile track. I don't care if you've got Daytona sitting out here. That doesn't mean somebody is going to show up and watch the race. You've got to explain why they want to watch the race. You've got to give them some incentive. You've got to excite them about coming out here. It's got to be promoted.

"It always amazed me that in the Southeast someone can win promoter of the year and never promote a racetrack. How do you win promoter of the year and never promote? You just sold 'em out. Well, how did you sell it out? Those guys just showed up and had a race. That doesn't work in other markets. It doesn't work in major markets because so many things are going on. On a weekend in L.A. you've got the cultural side of it with plays and stuff like that. You've got the Lakers, other sports. You've got the desert right over the mountains where everybody hauls out their RV's and rides four wheelers. There's so many things to do that that recreational dollar can be split 16 different ways. Where we're from it's only going to be split five or six ways, so you stand a better chance percentage wise. I don't think there's any thing one group can do. At the same time, if he promotes and the drivers don't do anything with NASCAR, then it doesn't do him any good to promote. It's got to be a concerted effort between the entire group, and I don't think we've had that in any market we've gone to ever. To make it work there has to be a group that sits down and talks about what do you want to do here and give some direction."

WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF FINISH LAST WEEK AT TALLADEGA?

"I thought the 24 was ahead of the 8. What's the issue? They're going to have to change the rules. That's how simple it is. If you don't want to finish like they did last week, change the rules. Under the existing rules, we as competitors can't do anything about the way the race ended. I don't really want to hear any more about it. We did what we were supposed to be doing. Jeff did what he was supposed to do. Dale Jr. did what he was supposed to do. NASCAR did what they were supposed to do under what the rule book says. The fans obviously had their heads up their rear ends about throwing stuff out on the racetrack. Those weren't fans. We have fans that are huge NASCAR NEXTEL fans. Those people that threw stuff on the track are not fans. They didn't come to see a race. They were disappointed that they didn't see what they thought they should have seen. I understand that. I've been to the movies and I didn't throw my popcorn at the screen when the movie didn't end like I wanted. That's just not the way you act in this society. The bad part for me, I don't think people understand. On the pace lap we're still running 70-80 mph. You blow a tire at that speed and you're going to hit something hard. We're not just riding around there at 20 mph. It looks like we're going slow, but we're not. I don't have a problem with the way the race ended last week. From strictly the rules, I don't have a problem with it. From an entertainment side, yeah, it was terrible. If you went for entertainment, it was terrible.

"To fix that someone has to step in and change the rules and say we're going to do it a different way. I'm not a big fan of green-white-checkered. I think that's stupid, too. I'm not a big fan of that red flag rule they throw with three or four laps to go. I think that's stupid, also. If they're going to add laps to the end of the race and maybe give you a chance to fill up with fuel or maybe do something and instead of a 500-mile race we're going to have a 510-mile race at that point, but we're going to let everybody come down pit road and maintain their positions, that's fine. Stopping on the backstretch at Daytona just so you can run four extra laps, I don't like that. That's kind of anti-climatic, too. I don't see anything wrong with the way the race ended because it ended the way all the races like that should end. When we were inside the number of laps they told us in the drivers' meeting, my entry blank said 500 miles. That's what I signed up for, and that's what we ran. It just so happened somebody crashed late in the race, and that's what you got."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty