Kyle Petty Talks About Upcoming Rolex Series Race Part 2 of 2 Q: You didn't have much time in that No. 79 Porsche Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24 At Daytona because of the conditions. They only got worse and worse as time went on. Did you...
Kyle Petty Talks About Upcoming Rolex Series Race
Part 2 of 2
Q: You didn't have much time in that No. 79 Porsche Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24 At Daytona because of the conditions. They only got worse and worse as time went on. Did you spend enough time in it to give a description of the differences between the GT3, which is a car that you have been in before, and the Daytona Prototype?
KP: I was pleasantly surprised at the driveability from the power perspective, handling perspective and from an aero perspective on how stable and good the Daytona Prototypes were. I think they are incredibly conducive to close racing. When you go back to Miami, you see how close the race was. When you have a car that has power, and you have a car that you can drive with the steering wheel, the brake and the accelerator, and you can make things happen in the car, all the car has to do is maintain what it is capable of doing. I was really impressed at how the Prototypes were. I think when you go to the GT3s, the power is not as great. The down force is there, and the driveability is there, it's more about pitching the cars through the corners for me. I have a lot more fun because it's like hustling the cars through the corner as fast as you can, while the keeping the tires close to the ground. The Prototype just stuck and it went wherever you wanted it to go. Even though there was a lot of water on the racetrack, and windshield wipers and everything like that became an issue, I think the times you had in practice, it's not just one step up. I don't think the Prototypes are one step up from where the GT cars are; I think they are multiple steps up from where the GT cars are. It's a handful to come out of one into another. It's a totally different way of driving.
Q: Dodge's John Fernandez has told me he has a hot little Dodge engine he wants to put in a Prototype. So I guess there's a good connection for you already.
KP: Fernandez and I have talked about road racing since we started this program. He has his hands full with the NEXTEL Cup stuff to be completely honest with you. They ran some Vipers a couple years ago and did some road racing. I think with the success that the Dodge program is doing now in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with Bobby Hamilton -- we've struggled a little bit, which is pretty much public knowledge -- but I think with Ray's teams and Penskes' teams, and how we've turned to corner a little bit this year. I think the Dodge program and NEXTEL CUP has begun to step up. From an ownership standpoint, once something begins to stabilize, and you can see the growth and potential, I think you can move on to something else. I think that's what Fernandez and everyone at Dodge are looking at now to look for another division and take Dodge to the top of the heap. The Grand American division would be a great division, so don't think I haven't talked to him about it on numerous occasions.
Q: As a point of clarification, you talked about racing at Watkins Glen last year and in July at the Paul Revere race, what about this year?
KP: Right now I'm playing it race by race, you know what I mean? This thing in Phoenix just came up. I want to run Watkins Glen, and I want to run in the Paul Revere, that's how simple that is, put my name in the paper and tell anyone that I will drive. I'll be there, and I'll jump into anything they've got. I love this division, and I love road racing. If I could get four races in this year, it would be a good year for me.
Q: In road racing, there are a lot of differences to stock car racing, but the one that stands out is the fact that you are sharing a car and a setup. How is it to move from stock car racing in NASCAR to road racing where you share the drivers seat and the set up as well?
KP: Surprisingly it's not very difficult at all. In NEXTEL CUP racing, cars are different. We start a race with a sticker set of tires, full of fuel and let's just say 50 percent nose weight or 51 percent nose weight. By the time you run 50 laps, the tires are worn out and the nose has gone from 50 percent to 54 percent. It's not sticking to anything; it's a totally different car at the end of 50 laps than it is at the beginning of a run. You have to make compromises in your driving style lap after lap after lap to stay up with the car. I think that's the same thing you experience in road racing jumping into a car that is designed for someone else. You've got to compromise your style. No car is going to work perfect for Kyle Petty and then work perfect for Gunnar Jeannette. He has to adjust his style a little bit, and I adjust how I drive a little bit. Hopefully, the teams that run well and win, capitalize on that adjustability and comes out with a combination that works for both drivers.
Q: When you talk about the attraction to sports car racing, are there one or two things that jump out as the things you like best.
KP: I know this is going to sound incredibly simplistic, but it's the opportunity to turn right sometimes, you know what I mean? It's the shifting and the braking, and out- braking someone, jumping out in a corner and taking the line away from them and making them adjust. It's out-powering them coming out of a corner. I think there are so many different nuances to driving a sports car that you don't experience driving a CUP car. We drive as hard as we can lap after lap after lap. You go into the corners as hard as you can and jump back on the gas as quick you can. I think that's what it is. You try to get the car to do as much of the work as possible. If the car can't do the work, then the driver in the CUP car can't make it up. I think drivers in the Grand American division and road racing divisions can make up a little bit of time. They're not going to make up two seconds, and they can't make up huge chunks of time, but I think you can brake a little later and make up some time getting in the corner. Maybe turn in a little bit early or turn in a little bit later, whatever it may be. To take a car that is maybe a little down in power and run a competitive race with it, it's incredibly rewarding. I think you can do that in the Grand American division where you can't do it in the NEXTEL CUP stuff.
Q: Everyone has an opinion on the so-called field fillers. What are your thoughts on that?
KP: I don't really look at it as a plus or a minus. I don't see a big issue with it. I think with how the economy has gone over the last few years, obviously that has affected every business in the nation. I don't think there is any difference if you're in retail, unless you're Wal-Mart since it hasn't affected Wal-Mart I guess, or everybody else as far as job layoffs and stuff like that. We're just in a business that takes a lot of dollars to run. What's happened is there are teams that have survived and there are teams that have not survived. The strong teams have, and the teams that have come on financial hard times have had poor performances and some have not been able to survive. There are teams out there that have been able to fill those places, whether it's an Andy Hillenburg or
Hermie's (Sadler) car, the 02, or whether it's Kirk Shelmerdine, it doesn't make any difference. Those guys have just as much right to be out there. If it's Kyle Petty or Richard Childress, everybody has to start somewhere. I think the thing is, that some places we go, the speed differential between what they can run and what the lead guy can run, is too great and it becomes a safety issue. When it becomes a safety issue, that's when you have to step up. Whether that happens at Bristol, I think it happened a little at Darlington, but I don't think it was a factor at Atlanta or a factor at Phoenix, and I don't think we saw anything like that at Daytona. There are going to be cases where that stuff comes up. There's always been cases where guys, Kyle Petty of Jeff Gordon it doesn't make any difference, crash in the first 10 laps and have to drive around all day with a torn up car. I'm just as much in the way as any field filler has ever been. So has Jeff Gordon in the past, so has Dale Jr. and so have other people. So I think when you look at it like that, I don't consider them field fillers. The way I look at it, they are NEXTEL CUP drivers. They come, they qualify, and they make the race. They have just as much a right as anyone. It should only be an issue when safety is an issue.
Q: Most of our readers are in the entry level of racing. What advice would you give to these people to get to that spot?
KP: Of all the questions you get asked as a driver, that one is the most asked. How did I go from step A to step B to step C? How do I eventually get to where I want to be? I don't think there is any clear path. Obviously myself and Dale Jr., guys like that, we had an in before we were ever born. We were close to the sport. My grandfather did it and his grandfather did it. My father did it and his father did it. When it came time to race, we had the access to the facilities, the equipment and the people to be able to step in to drive. You still had to be competitive and you got to win races or you don't get to stay no matter what your last name is. That's part of it. Then there's Rusty Wallace whose father had a business and raced on the side. The next thing you know Rusty and Kenny and all those guys are racing. Jeff Gordon whose step-father got him involved in kart and brought him along and guided his career through different areas. I think when you look at it; it's all about being in the right place at the right time. It's all about making that commitment. When I say making that commitment, no one is going to walk up and say hey do you want to drive my car today. You have to be out there asking someone can I work on your car? Can I polish your car? Can I help your car? Can I do anything for the car? We have guys that work in our shop who have cars that run down at South Boston and places like that, they work here during the week and work here during the day and on their own stuff at night because they are chasing their dreams to be race car drivers. There are two or three guys here who are really, really good race car drivers. They could do it if they get the right breaks. The thing is, you have to absolutely, positively believe in yourself 100 percent and you have to stay focused on what you want and do everything you can and talk to everyone you can whether they got a dime or $10 million. It doesn't make any difference. You have to try to convince them because no one can achieve anything on their own. It takes help and it also takes a lot of prayers believe me. If you keep chasing it and believe in it, you will find a way to make it happen.
AS: Let's mention your charity ride. Talk about the dates.
KP: This year it's the first week in May. This year it is the Chick-Fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across American. Chick-Fil-A has come on board to become a major sponsor for the next two or three years. We're really excited about that. We leave California one weekend and end up in North Carolina the next weekend. It's a seven to eight day trip. In the past we've raised money for different children hospitals, From Mattel Children's Medical Center, to Children's Emergency in Kansas City to Speediatrics right there in Daytona Beach, to St. Jude's and places like that. So we've raised money for a lot of different hospitals. In the future, the majority of the money we raise will go to the Victory Junction Camp. We became an official charity of NASCAR last year. We're excited about that. The ride is an exciting seven or eight-day trip. We go from Palm Springs to Las Vegas, Flagstaff, down to Roswell. We're going down to see Area 51, we though that we would be pretty exciting for a change, to Oklahoma City, Branson, Missouri, Mississippi and then to Atlanta to do some stuff with Coca-Cola and Chick-Fil-A, then to Georgia-Pacific, we're having a big event there. Then were going to end at the Camp this year. The Camp opens June 20th this year. We'll start seeing kids for the first time. The riders in this ride have been so instrumental in getting this camp open, we wanted them to be some of the first people to come in and see the camp. We're pretty excited about that.
Q: Daytona International Speedway announced a serious sum of money is going to be spent on renovations. They're going to put in a new tunnel in the No. 1 turn. They're going to do a lot in the infield for you all in the garages and for the fans as well. Going back to the days when you sat on orange crates, how much has this sport changed?
KP: We could have a six-hour conference call and not hit on everything. Somethings you hate to see change. Those garage areas at Daytona, you can say whatever you want to. Richard Petty won seven races out of one garage stall. I can take you right too it and show you which one it was. You just hate to see stuff like that go away. That tunnel has always been the most special place in the world. I never forget it. Every year, every February, you pop into the tunnel and then Daytona International Speedway opens up in front of you. Its like everything is possible, all dreams come true and anything can happen because it's a new year. Daytona has been, will be always, the heart of what makes NEXTEL CUP racing, NEXTEL CUP racing and what makes NASCAR, NASCAR. Any change is going to be a plus, they're not going to change the place where you don't recognize it believe me. I applaud them for stepping and up and doing something, because as far as I'm concerned, it's one of the most perfect, if not the perfect, race track in the world and it's the greatest place to go to.