Martinsville: Petty - Dodge Friday interview

KYLE PETTY (No 45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge Avenger) WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS WEEKEND? "I don't have any expectations, especially with the Car of Tomorrow (COT). In one of the (Martinsville) races last year I think...

KYLE PETTY (No 45 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge Avenger)

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS WEEKEND? "I don't have any expectations, especially with the Car of Tomorrow (COT). In one of the (Martinsville) races last year I think Bobby finished third or fourth and I finished ninth or 10th or 12th or something in that range. We had some good runs here last year. We've always, traditionally this has been a good track for Petty Enterprises, but the COT is a little bit different and just different enough that the stuff you've used in the past you can't really come with. The tires are a little bit taller than the stuff we've used in the past. I think there are too many variables. We were talking last night and it's like I've been here 10 million times it seems like. A.J. Almendinger comes here and really we're on equal footing except I've been here 30 times. As far as the car goes all the guys who haven't been on the track for a tire test are basically just rookies here."

DO YOU PLAN TO WORK ON THE NEXTEL FAN VOTE THIS YEAR? "That was a huge deal for us last year. We campaigned for it. We took a little bit different approach. Coca-Cola took a little bit different approach with the program they had. It was something different and it was great for us. It was great for the camp. It was great publicity. We got on a lot of different TV shows in New York, so it was a good program for the camp. This year it's someone else's turn to go out and campaign. I'm going to be on the presidential cycle and campaign every four years. I'm not very political when it comes to that, but it's a great opportunity for a team and for an organization to utilize what Nextel does with the All-Star race and the All-Star race gets bigger and bigger and All-Star week continues to get bigger and bigger. It's more than just a race now. It's an event. It's a happening. To be able to branch off and do stuff like we did last year, like I said, it was huge for us."

WHAT IS THE STATE OF NASCAR TODAY? "Steinbeck is writing a book that will be the sequel to the Grapes of Wrath. That's how bad it is. I don't know what it is. If I believe everything I read or believe everything I see it's the worst of times to be in NASCAR racing. At the same time, it's obviously the best of times to be in the sport. No matter what the ratings are. It seems to go to a level and it seems to be able to maintain that level for whatever reason. My question has always been to people who say ratings are down or all this stuff is down. I don't know why it went up, so I can't answer why it comes down. For every action there's a reaction, so if I knew what the action was then I could tell you why the reaction happened maybe. The sport continues to grow and it continues to be more popular. Maybe we lose fans, but maybe we're like other sports. We lost a hundred and gain a hundred in the same day. I think in a lot of ways we have such a long season. Not that all races don't count, so please don't take it that way, but in the fans' minds, a lot of races don't count. They just don't count. Daytona is a huge event, but you come off Daytona and the next three or four races or the next two or three races and in the fans' minds that just gets the season going. They're five races in, they're six races in, I'll pay attention when they get to 15. It's like baseball. You might not watch every game they play, but you get intense toward the end. That's where the Nextel Chase comes in. Hopefully it builds to that crescendo toward the end of the year. There's got to be a little come down after Daytona no matter what. I think that's just a natural reaction to the sport. I don't know what the state of the sport is. I think it continues to move forward. It continues to change, not always for the good, not always for the bad. Change is change. You can get 100 guys in here and they'll tell you change is good and change is bad. I do believe it's a good time to be here. It's where it's going from here, and I don't know where it's going from here."

DO YOU THINK THE COT IS GOING TO BE THE GREAT EQUALIZER? "I never meant to imply it was going to be an equalizer from a competition standpoint. I think just because you've got such a box and you've got $40 million and I've got $5 million, you're not going to be able to capitalize as much with your $40 million. Having said that, the good teams are still going to rise to the top. It would make any difference if they gave us Freightliner Trucks to race. The Gibbs teams and the Hendrick teams are still going to be the top teams because through the years they've been able to hire the right guys, they've been able to put the right people in the right places, they've been able to build their teams because of the financial advantages they've had. You just don't give that up because you change products. I do believe from wind tunnel time to the other stuff, the auxiliary part of racing, it's still going to be there and it's still an important part of where the sport is, but basically, if you take a car from Bristol and blow it in the wind tunnel and you take a car from today and blow it in the wind tunnel and take the car we run at Phoenix and blow it in the wind tunnel, you're going to get the same numbers, so there's no reason to go to the wind tunnel 90 times like we have been going or like some teams have been going. That's the way the car was designed. That's the reason you have the splitters. That's the reason you have the spoiler. That's the reason the area package has been narrowed. If you save three million dollars from wind tunnel time, then you say 'where do we spend it?' There's really no place you can spend it because you can't go track test. I'm already spending everything I've got on engines, so I can't spend it there. I'm not going to hire any more people because I don't need anymore people because I'm building fewer cars. Maybe we're getting to a point, and you'll never get to a point financially where you've got enough money, but where the curve begins to change from a financial standpoint. I don't think it's going to be an equalizer from a competition standpoint, but I do believe it'll even out some of the other stuff."

DOES PETTY ENTERPRISES HAVE A BETTER CHANCE WINNING WITH THE COT? "That's a hard question because Petty Enteprises issues are different than just the COT and Car of Yesterday. We've got to do things in the right places to make things happen. I don't look at any of that as being an issue. If the COT will pan itself out just like qualifying engines when we eliminated qualifying engines. When we eliminated qualifying engines everybody goes, 'oh my God, we eliminated qualifying engines and we're doing this it's going to change racing.' It didn't change anything, Over the long haul, it has saved on engine expense."

COMMENT ON YOUR TV SABBATICAL "A couple of guys are really good choices, and guys are calling and wanting to know what we're going to do and we really don't know yet. That was kind of the way we planned it. Just like I said at Daytona, there might be guys out here in the garage area that are fired by the time we get there that would be great for two races or one race or five races. We're really not any closer to that than we were."

COMMENT ON THE BOWLING ALLEY AT VICTORY JUNCTION CAMP "I'm not a good bowler. That's why we've got soft walls at the bowling alley. Jimmie Johnson said they were bumpers. I said 'they're not bumpers they're soft walls.' Jimmie Johnson and his foundation built a bowling alley at camp and we had the grand opening yesterday. Some of the guys were there. It is so much more than what we ever anticipated when we started building a bowling alley. It's true bowling alley. It's got four lanes, video machines, shoe rentals. It's an incredible place. Jimmie came yesterday and we had sent pictures to Jimmie, but I think he was amazed. Kids love to bowl. It's instant gratification. They sent a ball down there, it knocks pins down and then they get the ball back and they get to do it again. They don't care what the score is. They just love to bowl. It doesn't make any difference what your physical challenges may be. We've got ramps where kids in the wheelchairs bowl. I really don't think Jimmie believed what I was telling him. We had seven or eight campers there yesterday and from the time Jimmie rolled the first ball until they got on the helicopter to come up here, kids were bowling all day long. The bowling alley is a huge addition."

COMMENT ON TESTING "I'm just going to say this. I don't think there should be a test limit period, no matter what. I'm not a believer in a test limit. If we could go to the race tracks and physically test that would eliminate some of the money we spend in other places -- not eliminate but maybe we would refocus our funds to a test program instead of so much computer simulation and so much other stuff we're having to do now. That's changing the sport. The COT in some small way it makes all of us rookies because it's something different than we've been running. Even if you lifted the ban for one year... I felt like we should have had an opportunity, and I was not part of that decision process, but the crew chiefs sat in a room and talked about where they wanted to test. I would have like to seen us get a test at least everywhere we're going to race the car this year."

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHICH RACES YOU WOULD SIT OUT TO DO TV AND HOW MUCH HAVE YOU CLOSED THE GAP ON THE A TEAMS? "I just did the Turner deal. Turner had the six races, so that's what it was. When I did the Turner deal they already had those six races in the middle of the season -- Chicago, Daytona, New Hampshire, Michigan, Pocono, whatever they were. When you say close the gap, you can't evaluate how you close the gap. I think there are A teams, B teams and C teams. It depends on which group you're in. If you're in the C group, you're not really trying to close the gap on the A teams. You're trying to close the gap on the B teams. That's who you focus on. The 24 and 48 are top five teams week in and week out. The five is becoming that. Tony Stewart is a top five car week in and week out. Those are your A teams. B teams can finish somewhere in the top five, but they finish mostly in the top 10 and top 15. Then the C teams are the rest of the teams. They can jump up there and have a top 10. They can jump up and have a top five. They can win a race, but they don't do it consistently. To say close the gap, the way I look at it, it's harder to say in four or five races how much you've closed the gap. We've not even got in a rotation yet. I've broken a couple of motors, tore the quarterpanel off at Daytona. Really the two races I've run I've finished 20th and 22nd. That's not closing the gap on anybody. Bobby is the same way. Bobby has had a couple of really good runs, but he's had a couple of bad runs. He's moved up in points and the outlook is good, but that doesn't mean he's closed the gap on the A teams. I do think we're getting more competitive. I think the issue for us is to become more consistent and more competitive and then figure out what we've got. We're just not at a place where we can evaluate that I don't think."

SO ARE YOU A C TEAM? "Yes, I would say so."

HOW DO YOU DRAW THE LINE AT CAMP? "It's not as hard as you'd think. We have a great medical staff. We have a great program staff. Programming and medical have to work together. Just because programming comes up and says this will be cool, medical may say 'no, that's bad.' What we try to do at camp is we try not to have anything that every group can't do. We have things where every child can participate in everything at camp. It's basic camp. When you go to camp you might not be the greatest artist, but you still get to participate in arts and crafts. As we add diseases, that's where it gets a little trickier. We have to look at what we can add. Sometimes that's why we just have weekend camps. Autism is a great example. There are so many various levels of autism. You have functioning autism and you have children with autism that don't function much outside of the home at all. Stimulants will really set them off. You show up at a camp where everything is bright and colorful and loud, then there's too much stimulation for them so you have to back it down. We try to bring kids to camp for half a day and acclimate themselves and then bring 'em back two weeks later for half a day. Then we ease in to three quarters of a day and then we ease into a whole day. That's huge for these kids to go to camp for a whole day. To be able to come overnight is a huge step for them to stay outside their world for a night. The medical staff really dictates the program."

WHAT'S YOUR PHILOSOPHY ON HANDOUTS? "This is a sport. If you believe in handouts in sports you're just going to let everybody show up at the Masters next week. You earn a right to go to the Masters. You play golf and you get to that level where you're a major league player, I can't play major league baseball, so I'm not going to open it up and let Kyle Petty come try. This is a sport where you get a report card every Sunday. You either win and pass or you run second and fail. That's the way it is. So there's 42 guys out here that fail every Sunday. It's either a passing grade or you fail. If you're not competitive enough to be here, then you shouldn't be here. Open it up and let someone else come in. Whether you're a driver or a team, it doesn't make any difference. If you're not competitive enough to be here, then you shouldn't be on that welfare system to allow people to show up and be here from the competition side. There are teams in the NFL that are not going to win the Super Bowl. They're going to win a couple of games. They're going to be .500. They're going to be 8-4, but they're going to get beat in the first round of the playoffs. They're not going to go to the Super Bowl. Does that make them an unsuccessful team? No. Does that make them not a viable entity? No. They have to be competitive on some level to get to that point. Showing up here with a race car doesn't mean you should be given anything. You've got to go out there and run a lap and you've got to make sure you're fast enough. Then you go from there. I think it should be the fastest 43 cars. I have no problem with that. That's from the competition side. This is where this is a goofy sport. That's from the competition side. From an owner's side, I should have a franchise. We've been here 60 years doing the same thing, beating your head against the wall pulling from California to New York to Florida and back six times a year with some of the schedules they've made throughout the years and you've got nothing to show for it. From a business side, and that's where there's that fine line, is it a sport or a business. It's really a business six days a week. It's only a sport on Sunday, but it's a business Monday through Saturday. That's the way it works. >From a business side, I'm not against the top 35 having a free ride. I'm not against a franchise. For the show, it should be the 43 fastest people."

ADDITIONAL COMMENT ON RACING WELFARE "If I read what you write, and I don't like it, I don't have to buy your magazine. There should not be a welfare system in sports. When kids play baseball, and I'm going to be very politically incorrect here, they ought to keep score and there ought to be a winner and there ought to be a loser. You learn from losing. Kids learn from losing. You learn sportsmanship from losing. Anybody can be a good sport when they're a winner, but when you get your butt kicked on a soccer field or a football field and you're eight years old and you've got to walk down that line and shake everybody's hand, there's a life's lesson in that. You've got to keep score, so the competition is the most important part in sports. The competition and the winner and the loser is the most important part. That's what we do out here on Sunday. There are winners and losers. In the business world, there's a totally different set of rules obviously. In that set of rules, if I look at this as a business, there are certain things and I'm not going to call it welfare. Call it sweat equity. We put 60 years here, and we deserve something back for those 60 years. The Wood Brothers deserve something back for their 50 years. Look at Hendrick, 25-30 years. There is a pecking order. They deserve more than what they have now, even though they're at the top of the heap. I still believe they deserve more than they have now, and I believe for the sport to have potential to grow has been built on the back of some of those guys. Call it what you want to call it, but I do think there's a different standard from the business side to the racing."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Jimmie Johnson