KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Petty will make his 646th career start in the 45th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway. He has eight career victories but none of those have been behind the...
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Petty will make his 646th career start in the 45th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway. He has eight career victories but none of those have been behind the wheel of a Petty Enterprises entry. Petty and John Andretti will give Petty Enterprises a 1-2 punch in 2003.
"If you come to our race shop I can show you where my grandfather worked on his first car. Martinsville is the same race track my grandfather raced on and this is the same track he raced on at Daytona. The history we have in the Petty family and what is tied to NASCAR and the France family and the sanctioning body, that history is still there. A few guys still have a link to it. Guys have come along later that are in the middle part of it, but they don't go back to the beginning. It'll get to a point where there's fewer and fewer of us who go all the way back to the first days.
"I don't think you pay any attention to the changes. It just happens. It's kind of like watching the tide change. It's out and then it's in, and you really don't realize when it's out and when it's in. It just happens over a period of time. I think this is the same thing. We've had big events happen that change the sport. R.J. Reynolds coming in, the factories pulling out in the 60s. Until the factories pulled out, nobody needed R.J. Reynolds. Then the cables picked it up. After a while, you look at the TV package we have now and you say, 'who would ever want a package like TNN and ESPN came in with?'
"ESPN was huge for this sport, but I think it's just been a gradual process of evolution. You just didn't wake up one day and it one way and you wake up the next day and it's something different.
"John came to Daytona and had a great test with the Cheerios Dodge. We came back with the Georgia Pacific Dodge and we were able to build on top of that. We came out of Daytona with two really good tests, probably the best tests we've had here in the last four or five years. John went to Las Vegas and had a good test out there. He was in Lakeland, Fla., testing and he's been having greats tests everywhere he's been. For us, by going back to two Winston Cup teams, the 43 and 45, it's let us focus more on what we're doing. We're stronger from top to bottom than we've ever been. We feel like we're better prepared going into the Daytona 500 than we've ever been.
"Switching to Dodge a couple of years ago was a huge step for us. We've continued to build on that momentum. Even though it didn't look like we had much momentum in 2001, some momentum was building. Still waters run deep sometimes. It looked like we were just stagnant, but stuff was going on within the organization. It's beginning to pay off. We're in no position to contend for the championship yet. We want to put two teams in the top 20 in points and contend to win some races this year. Those are our goals. They're very modest goals, but we feel like they're reachable goals. We'll be excited to get this season under way and see how much progress we've made in the last couple of years.
"We continue to evolve. One change we made over the winter, obviously we had Robin Pemberton as a general manager and he left and we went to a two-car operation. We had to change our engineering department. We've had an existing relationship with a company out of Canada to do some engineering. Over the winter, we pretty much turned all our engineering stuff over to them. We had layoffs over the winter because we went from three cars to two cars. As we laid people off, we kept the strongest guys. We were able to make the 43 team stronger and the 45 team stronger. We can't just come here in February and say that's the best speedway car we've ever had and come back with the same car in July. We used to do that, but you've got to continue to develop and that's what we haven't done in the past. We've got a constant development program now, and if you've got that, you'll continue to grow with the sport. You're able to move quickly if they make a rule change, and you're able to adjust faster.
"I think when Adam came along, I had pretty much resigned myself to say, 'OK, this is what I'm going to do.' We'll give Adam all of this stuff, and I'll take this other stuff and run it out. I had kind of begun to overlook my career and looked to Adam's career and let him take a lead. After his accident, I was in a bad place. Mentally, you've lost a son and you've had a personal tragedy. At the same time, you say, 'I've let my career go and I've got to start over.' Some of the guys I felt I was equal to or at least as good as, I feel behind. I had to go back and regroup and work harder to get back to where you think you can be competitive. It's taken a couple of years to get back where when you're in a car you feel like you can be competitive.
"It gave me a focus. When we switched to Dodge in 2001, that gave me a focus also. Changing to the Dodge program and getting rid of all the GM stuff, trying to rebuild three teams and trying to rebuild Petty Enterprises, that gave you a focus, too.
"Obviously you have events in your life that change your perspective on a lot of things. Obviously a couple of years ago with Adam, we had such an event. I think your perspective on life changes, what's important and what's not important. It'd would be special to win the Daytona 500. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it wouldn't. Would it be special for me as a Petty to win the championship? I'm not going to say it wouldn't. Is it the end all end all for me to do that? No. We're building a camp in North Carolina, and for me it's one of the most special places on earth. When that's done and the first group of kids come through that camp door, I'm going to sit back and say that's worth 20 Daytona 500s. I think for me, what's important has changed. This is still important. I love to drive a racecar. I love to come to Daytona. I love to go to Rockingham when it's 15 degrees. It doesn't make any difference. I'm not going to complain about it. I love to go to the shop everyday, and I love the people that work on our race car and the people who work on those other race cars. That's a special part of it, and I think it's more special to me now than it was before. It would mean a lot to me to win. It would mean a lot to my family and sponsors and everybody involved. For me personally, I think other things potentially would mean a lot more."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I think we've got a lot of good things to look forward to. Robin Pemberton really helped our organization. We're ready to keep going forward. What we're looking for is probably clearer to us now than it's ever been. I couldn't be more pleased with where we're at and what we're looking for and the support we're going to have. Petty Enterprises is a small Winston Cup team, but we can tap a tremendous amount of resources. We've got a lot of things to look forward to. It's not going to be by accident when we get better.
"We'll start by trying to win one and go from there. If I only won one, and I was allowed to win two, I'd love to see Kyle win it. I think the grandstands would come down if Kyle won a race. Nobody knows how much he's given the last few years and how hard it's been for him to give. There's a real deserving guy. Just like Earnhardt and some of the other guys years ago, they tried to write him off. You ought to come out and race with some of these guys who can't drive and find out how tough they are. I'd really like to see a breakthrough year for Kyle. That would be huge for Petty Enterprises. I just don't want to have to run second to him, but if I did, that would be OK. If it came down to Kyle and me on the last lap, I'm not sure what I'd do, but I'm sure I wouldn't wreck him."