Richard Petty interview

RICHARD PETTY (Car owner Petty Enterprises Dodges) NOTE: Petty discuss the 20th anniversary of his 200th career victory on July 4, 1984 at Daytona International Speedway. "I look back on my career and the races I won or could have won...

RICHARD PETTY (Car owner Petty Enterprises Dodges)

NOTE: Petty discuss the 20th anniversary of his 200th career victory on July 4, 1984 at Daytona International Speedway.

"I look back on my career and the races I won or could have won that would put the 200th at a different time. If we had won one the week before or month before or year before, then that would have been the 200th. The way fate had it, that was going to be the 200th win. The President was here, it was July 4th and all the hullabaloo and all that stuff. It was really unreal. Looking at your career and the whole deal, that was the pinnacle of my career. Winning 200 anywhere would have been great, but doing it under those circumstances and beating Cale, who I had been racing with for years, it was all in one day and it was fantastic. Basically it still is. I don't think there's anything to match that within the annals of racing.

"Basically just as we came across the start/finish line with three laps to go, we had just come out of the dogleg and off to the left, up in the air, we saw this car going up and down. I think both of us both said, 'OK, this is it.' So any strategy either of us had went out the window. He did all he could do. He got by me going up the backstretch. I got down beside of him in the middle of three and four. I had experience with that same thing with Pearson back in '76. I'd done the same thing with Pearson. He passed me in the backstretch and I got down beside him in three and four and thought I had cleared him, but we crashed. I said, 'OK, I can't crash this time because I've already been here and been through that.'

"I just stayed beside Cale and basically what beat him, the cars were even, even. When we turned through the dogleg I had a shorter route to go and beat him by a couple of feet. It was just destiny to be that way."

DID IT MATTER THAT THE '84 RACE ENDED UNDER CAUTION?

"When I saw the car the first time it was way up in the air. I don't think either one of us ever thought about him coming back on to the track. If he had we would have still been wide open because it was racing back to the flag at that time. It would have taken everything away from it (if there hadn't been racing back to the flag) because we were right in the middle of something exciting and it freezes and that takes away from everything."

DISCUSS RACING BACK TO THE YELLOW FLAG

"Let's go back a little further. The first mistake NASCAR made on this particular deal is when they stopped the field at Richmond. That was a mistake and they're going to pay for it from now on. If they had just left it like it was, we wouldn't be running into all this controversy right now. We'd still be running our races like what they're supposed to be run and everything would be OK. They made that one call, and once they made that one call, they tried to come back and sort of cover themselves and every time they do something they try to cover themselves again. That's why the media, fans and everybody is so excited about what's going on because nobody knows until after it's all done. Then NASCAR says, 'OK, this is the way it was.' You don't know where you're at, when they just froze the thing, whether you just passed the guy or he just passed you. It's very, very confusing to the competitors and the fans, and the press don't know what to write because they're confused, too. On top of that, nobody is as confused as NASCAR. I don't see no way to back up. The fans have got used to that now. They want green-white-checkered to finish under green. They did all this stuff originally to keep from racing back to the flag because it was dangerous. It's not near as dangerous as throwing that green flag with two or three laps to go. That's the worst thing in the world that can happen to the racers no matter if they run second or third instead of winning the race. It's still very unsafe. One of the first we did it was at Darlington when they threw it with two or three laps to go and they crashed about half the field down there in one and two. It's really dumb to do stuff like that."

HAS THE NEW RULE HURT OR HELPED THE SPORT?

"I think it's hurt because it's created controversy that we shouldn't run into that questions NASCAR and our ability to put on a professional show. When you look at it that way it's really hurt our sport from that standpoint."

COMMENT ON TONY STEWART'S PENALTY

"I think that's the difference from old school to new school. Everything is a little bit different now than it was 20 years ago or 40 years ago. Any time some of these guys go to the bathroom some of you guys follow him. You can't go on the backstretch and knock them out of the way like you used to and say, 'what happened to him?' There's always a camera or something watching. I think you can overdo anything. You can overdo it and just leave it wide open or you can overdo it and pinpoint it too much. I think without a little bit of rivalry or competition from that standpoint, I think in the long run it'd be hurting themselves. It can't be blatant, but a little bit of an argument, a little bit of pushing, hey man, they do that in the grandstands. If you just get in an all-out brawl with a bunch of people then you're getting into a different deal, but when we're just having an argument amongst ourselves, and there's a bunch of people around, it's between me and you. I think we're pushing the envelope a little bit too tight."

WHEN YOU FINISHED UNDER CAUTION HERE IN '84 WAS THERE A PROBLEM?

"At that time we ran back to the flag and that was the race. Anything that was started after that would have been anticlimatical. There were just two laps to go so there was no way under any kind of rules they could have stopped the race, went out and made a few pace laps and still had any time to throw the green flag unless they did like the truck series does. When you're talking about adding a couple of laps to races when everybody is so close on gas, there's no way. You can't do that."

DO FANS NEED TO ACCEPT THE NO RACING BACK TO CAUTION RULE?

"From my standpoint, they need to accept it. This is the way it is guys. We can't guarantee we're going to have 200 laps under green, and we can't guarantee that we're not going to have 190 under caution. I think one of the things we've run into the last two or three races is that NASCAR has taken so long under caution... Used to if somebody threw something on the track or there was something on the track, they'd throw a caution and everybody would come in and pitted and everybody went back out and within two laps they had the green flag out. Now they take two laps to figure out where everybody is at, and it's electronically done. Give me a break. We used to do it on a piece of paper and nine times out of 10 it was right."

DO YOU THINK ALL THE CHANGES HAVE BEEN GOOD FOR THE SPORT?

"Probably two-thirds of it is positive. Nextel is a good fit for NASCAR. I think where Nextel is a good fit it gives us a chance to go to new venues that we weren't able to go to with RJR as far as the younger people and stuff. That's going to be a big, big plus. The schedule needs to expand from the standpoint where I've got Georgia-Pacific and General Mills and if we stay say in North Carolina and run 10 races, we're spending a bunch of money for that one guy to come in there all the time. If we run 10 races and they've got 10 different people they can get in front of, look at the advantage it is for them. From a sponsor's standpoint and from our growth, not so much from TV because we can run every race from the same track as far as TV is concerned, but the deal is being able to go to California, being able to go to New Hampshire, being able to go to Florida and Texas. We're covering the country with actual people coming into our venue and watching our race physically and that gets a little more exciting than TV does, so that's a plus. On the championship deal, I'm still out to school on that deal. The deal is we run a season and we need a season championship. We don't need a 10-race champion. We could say, 'OK, we're going to run the first 10 races and whoever wins them is the champion and then we're going to run the other 26. What difference does it make? I think it takes away from that part of it, but from the excitement part, the TV part, the press part, it's probably a plus. I don't think it really tells you who the real champion is for the complete year. There might need to be two championships, one a year championship and one a 10-race champion."

IS TONY STEWART'S ACT WEARING THIN WITH THE DRIVERS?

"When you're a champion of a circuit or a ball club or whatever, you're the No. 1 guy for that year. Everybody looks at you and watches what you do, whether you do it right or wrong or indifferent. Like with Tony, he's two different people from the standpoint that he's given us a bunch of money for Victory Junction. He's done a lot of personal appearances for that. He pushes that all the time, yet he goes around and does some childish stuff. He does it without thinking. I don't think he's grown up as far as really understanding how the public looks at him. He'll eventually learn to look at a bigger picture."

DOES TONY REMIND YOU OF A YOUNG A.J. FOYT?

"It was a different society at that time. If Tony came through with A.J. and grew up with us, then he would have been right at home. A.J. would not be accepted today like he was no matter how good he was or anything like that. Society has changed. Environments have changed, so people look at things different than what they used to, whether that's good, bad or indifferent."

-dodge-

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Richard Petty