Richmond II: Kyle Petty - Dodge interview

KYLE PETTY (CEO Petty Enterprises) NOTE: Georgia Pacific announced Saturday at Richmond International Raceway that Kyle Petty will drive the No. 45 Georgia Pacific Petty Dodge Intrepid R/T in 2003 on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. "This is a...

KYLE PETTY (CEO Petty Enterprises)

NOTE: Georgia Pacific announced Saturday at Richmond International Raceway that Kyle Petty will drive the No. 45 Georgia Pacific Petty Dodge Intrepid R/T in 2003 on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.

"This is a good example when being chairman of the board pulls more weight than being CEO. I'm extremely excited about this opportunity. It means a couple of things. I think there's been a lot of speculation on what we were doing at the 45. This clears up what we're doing at the 45. Now we're back looking for a sponsor for the 44. I want to make that clear, but we're extremely excited about being associated with Georgia Pacific. They are a family of products they promote. I think when we look at things like that, that's important to our family. We've been associated with Georgia Pacific since we ran the trucks, and a lot of people forget they were part of our truck program early in the deal. We've talked. Pete Correll (Georgia Pacific Chairman and CEO) and I have had numerous conversations this year, and that's one thing that's special about our relationship with Georgia Pacific. We're able to go and talk directly to Pete at Georgia Pacific. We go straight to the top of the building and to the top of the ladder. He understands racing and wants to understand racing, wants it to be an integral part of their marketing strategy at Georgia Pacific. We tossed around a lot of different names and different opportunities. Obviously when the opportunity came open after the 45 car changed, we were still pitching names, trying to figure it out. Pete, I won't say in his flash of brilliance because he chose me, but he said, 'Why don't you drive the car?' That solved a multitude of problems right there. That's the way we went. We're excited to be associated with it. They've been an important part of the process and helping Petty Enterprises get where it is right now. We look at the people we're associated with as partners. In the end we look at them as family and I think Georgia Pacific is part of the family and hopefully we can grow this relationship. I'm 42 years old right now and hopefully the last time you guys see me in a race car it will still have the Georgia Pacific logo on the side of it and I'll still be associated with Pete and these guys.

"For our model to work, and we said this from the very beginning, we laid out a long-term plan for Petty Enterprises. Our partners know what that plan is and we have to have three teams. We have to have three teams at this level in some way, shape or form. The focus now becomes the 44 team, whereas it was for us out selling the 45 team. We also have the option with Christian Fittipaldi and the move we made there. We're trying to sell Christian. If that converges and it becomes one unit, then it's still going to be a Winston Cup effort because we're going to run Winston Cup races with all of our teams. We consider ourselves Winston Cup teams, no matter what they run or what they do. I think the schedule we laid out for Christian, part Busch, part ARCA, part Cup, worst case scenario, we'll turn it into a Winston Cup program and run it under that guise. We will have three teams."

"To be honest with you, we need a decision (concerning John Andretti's future with Petty Enterprises). Will John's decision change what we're doing? It'll change the driver. It doesn't change what we're doing at Petty Enterprises. We have to build Petty Enterprises back into a winning organization and an organization where any driver out there will want and come and drive for us. John has been an incredible help to build us to where we are right now. When I talk to John, I look at both sides of the coin. I look at the owner's side and I can see the driver's side. I understand what it's still like to be a driver and I understand his position. I think his main priority should be his wife and his three children and what's best for this wife and three children. If that's what's best for them, to be at Petty Enterprises, then I think he knows we want him to be at Petty Enterprises. We've made every effort we can to extend that hospitality that we want him to be at Petty Enterprises. If he chooses to go somewhere else, then there's no hard feelings because John has been a friend and part of our family and will continue to be. We need that decision fairly quick to be able to see what shakes out.

"It's not possible to run a full Winston Cup schedule (with Christian Fittipaldi) and the reason is that's our choice. We think Christian is a phenomenal talent and we think Christian is going to be a force on the Winston Cup circuit at some point in time. To take someone of his caliber and of that driving ability and throw him to the wolves in the Daytona 500 I think would be a foolish step on Petty Enterprises part and on any sponsor's part. I think we've got to ease into that part, and if we ease into that part where we run a few ARCA races, a few Busch races and then go full Winston Cup and there's a full 38-race Cup schedule and we run 30 races or we run 15 or 16 Cup races, the way my season went last year, if we run 25 that's more than I ran last year as many as I missed. I think we can look at it and say whenever we feel at Petty Enterprises and whenever Christian feels that he's ready to move, that's when we're going to move him. We're not going to force that issue along. It becomes more of when his ability matches what he can do on the race track.

"We're still looking for full Winston Cup programs on everything we're looking for. Even when I look at Christian's deal, and when we lay out our program and says it's an ABC program - ARCA, Busch and Cup - when we go off the Penske model. I don't think that Penske ever looked at what Ryan Newman did last year and said that was a Busch team or that's an ARCA team. That's the same group that's running Winston Cup today, so that was a Winston Cup program then. From our perspective, it's a Winston Cup program. We're selling Winston Cup programs. When we pitch Christian, we say we're going to run a Winston Cup program with Christian Fittipaldi. This is what we want to do to ease him into a Winston Cup program. We're trying to sell Christian's program and sell the 44. If we can only sell one, we'll have to merge them at some point in time. We're out there selling those programs right now as hard as we can."

"At this point it's an issue because he's driving the 44 Georgia Pacific car and he'll continue to drive the Georgia Pacific car. We feel like he's been a big boost for what we want at Petty Enterprises. He (Jerry Nadeau) is a Petty Enterprises type of driver. For us, we've been honest with Jerry from the very beginning and Jerry's been honest with us that he's had other deals that were a little bit over what... down the road I guess. We came to the table a little late. He said this fills out the year for him, but he has some options open for next year. He still has a couple of options open. We've stayed in touch with him, and I think we've got to go back to the John issue. If John decides to do something else, would we be interested in Jerry Nadeau? Yeah, but there's other drivers we're interested in, also.

"I don't know what we're going to do with the 43 truck deal. The way Winston Cup racing is right now, we need to do everything we can for our partners, for Georgia Pacific, General Mills, Coca-Cola, for Redwing, Ferguson, we need to do everything we can to move that ball forward. The truck deal has been an important part of who we are. Obviously, Dodge has been an important part of who we are and the truck deal has been an important part of that. If we can find something to keep those doors open and keep going, then we will. But from a technology base, from an engine perspective, from truck engines to Winston Cup engines, from truck aero to Winston Cup aero, there's not a lot of crossover. It becomes an island unto itself almost and it becomes an entity unto itself. If we can run a driver there and use it as a driver development or use it as a team development, then we'd be interested in keeping it open. From a technology base, it's not the technology base we want at Petty Enterprises. We'll have to evaluate that. We're really excited about the opportunities we have at Petty Enterprises. We feel like we have a great marketing platform with the three race cars and the truck series, with the cause-related marketing and with the camp and with the charity ride and the Richard Petty Driving Experience. We feel like we've got a package that no one else in the Winston Cup garage area has to sell and use from a marketing aspect. Our performance needs to come up, and we feel like deals like this with Georgia Pacific will step our performance up. Our deal with Dodge stepped our performance up. I think there's a lot of things out there happening. We can't lose sight and lose focus of who we are. Who we are is Winston Cup racing. We're a Winston Cup team, and we've got to make these Winston Cup teams go out and win races. We've got to use that as our main focus. If something distracts from that then maybe we need to take a step back and say that's not where we need to be and we've got to evaluate all that."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Kyle Petty , Jerry Nadeau , Ryan Newman , Christian Fittipaldi , Richard Petty