Daytona II: Dodge Friday practice report

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge Intrepid) COMMENT ON DRIVING BELOW THE YELLOW LINE "The rule used to be we couldn't go below the yellow line until we went to Talladega and Junior went below the yellow line, so I don't know what...

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge Intrepid)

COMMENT ON DRIVING BELOW THE YELLOW LINE

"The rule used to be we couldn't go below the yellow line until we went to Talladega and Junior went below the yellow line, so I don't know what the rule is. When they penalized Sterling here for going below the yellow line, that was wrong. A rule is a rule, and I understand that, but sometimes you've got to use a little common sense. If the speed limit is 55 and you've got to run 80 to avoid an accident, don't give me a ticket. When the car in front of Sterling ignition went out and he had to swerve to keep from running into the back of it, you've got to use a little common sense. That was wrong. When Junior went below the yellow line, that was wrong, too. To compare the two issues, he was guilty, in my mind he was anyway."

"Unless you put a wall up down there, people are going to go below the yellow line. That's how simple it is. You're going to have to put up an inside wall, and that's dangerous. I say take it away and let 'em just go through there. Don't have anything. You've got grass. Nobody is going into the grass because you can't get back to get in line, so just take it out. Go back and watch a race from 15 years ago. Everybody ran up against the wall. Now everybody runs next to the white line because they know nobody is going to pass them down there. All they did was just take a move away from everybody. They just took the race track away. You won't pull to the inside of anybody because you're afraid they'll run you below the yellow line. If they run you below the line, you're the guy who gets penalized, not the guy who ran you below the line. They've not enforced that yet. They didn't go back and say, 'he ran him below the line, let's penalize him.'

"The total way we run restrictor-plate races changed when they did the line thing. I understand it's a safety issue, believe me, but it did change the way we run restrictor plate racing. Sometimes you drop a pebble in the water and you create ripples. They dropped a boulder in this one, and it created a lot of different issues. It solved a little bit, but it did create some issues."

COMMENT ON TWO PETTY ENTERPRISES CARS NOT MAKING FIELD

"Our engines didn't run from the time we got down here. We came back with the same stuff we came down here with in February. I qualified 10th on speed in February. John had some trouble when he qualified, but he had been in the top 15 in practice. This time we never got out of the bottom third of the field. Our engines just didn't run. From the time the season started, we've struggled all year long and we put ourselves in this position. We were put in this position for a couple of different reasons. I know the story, and that's all that really matters. That's just the way it is."

HOW DO YOU KEEP EVERYONE PUMPED UP AT PETTY ENTERPRISES?

"My problem is we struggled in 2001. We got better last year and now we're struggling again. That kind of surprises me that we're struggling again. We've got a really good group of guys that work on these cars, back at the shop and all the way through. We've been further down that this. This is not a major issue. There's always another day. The sun came up this morning and we all came back to the race track. We'll all go to Chicago and start on equal footing again. That's just the way it is. Everybody complains about how long the Winston Cup schedule is, but that's one good thing about it. There's always another race and you've got a chance to redeem yourself next week."

HOW'S THE 5-YEAR PLAN PROGRESSING?

"We're two and a half years into it. In a lot of respects we're exactly where we want to be. In a lot of things we've laid out with our engineering program and where our cars are aerodynamically, we're exactly where we want to be. Some things have taken a leap forward, and some things have taken a leap back. Our engine program has taken a leap back. That's how simple it is. You look at how we qualified last year and what we did last year compared to where we're at this year, and we ain't even in the ball game this year. We've struggled to make races. That's right back where we were in 2001 when we struggled with our engine program. We're going to have to keep discussing what it's going to take to make it better. You can't just throw in the towel and not come back again. We'll keep plugging along, keep having conversations and keep working at it. Nobody is working harder than Mike Ege and those guys over there in the engine shop. It's not that they're building engines to come to the race track not to perform. They do the best they can. It's like all of us. Sometimes we get in a place where the best we've got just isn't good enough. It's not an option right now (building his own engines). I made a commitment to Mike and made a commitment to where we're at. It's like sitting in traffic. If you change lanes too many times you still get to the same place at the same time. You need to just stick with something and just ride it out. Sometimes it's a tough decision, and it's a tough way to go, but once you make that call you've got to live with what you did. We made that call a couple of years ago, and we're going to live with Mike. Mike's done a really good job for us. Right now he's just run on some hard times and they're just not running like they should be, but they'll come back."

HAVE OTHER ENGINE PROGRAMS PICKED UP?

"I think some engine programs have picked up. Some have stayed the same and some have gotten worse. I think ours is one of the latter. When you look at it like that, we've not maintained. That's as much as a death nail in this sport as anything else. Maintaining, you fall behind. When you go backwards, you fall double behind and I think that's what we did."

COMMENT ON SHANE HMIEL

"Shane did a great job for us. We let Shane down. That's how simple it is. How the 43 car ran and what we did here is no reflection on Shane Hmiel's ability or talent. I hope he goes out here and wins this Busch race and show everybody what he can do. We know he can drive a race car. That was us letting him down. He didn't do anything bad for us. He's been around this sport with his father long enough, and he knows what's up and what's down."

WHY HAS IT BEEN SO TOUGH QUALIFYING PETTY CARS AT DAYTONA RECENTLY?

"If we had run the way we wanted to the first part of the year, we wouldn't have this trouble right now. You don't just come to Daytona in July and miss the race. You missed it way back early in the year. That's our issue now. We got behind then. We didn't get behind last week. We've got to get caught back up. We had cars that were good here in February. To come down here and use a provisional the next race is uncalled for by any stretch of the imagination. You should never be 10th at a race track one time and come back six months later and not make the race. That's unacceptable in any business."

WHAT CAN YOU DO IN THE RACE?

"Just ride. That's what everybody does here. Let's be realistic. If you look at Daytona and Talladega with restrictor-plate racing, you've got four or five cars racing up front and everybody else just rides around. In February this year, you saw Bill Elliott, who qualified well here, you see Bill and those guys go to the back of the pack and ride around and when it comes time for the money, they go back to the front. That's what you've got to do. You've got to get a position, hang on to the draft until it gets close to the 400-mile mark and then hopefully you've got something to get to the front. You'll know in practice if your car is decent enough, as far as the engine goes. This becomes a handling race track. In July, it always becomes a handling race track. You've got to look at it that way, too. We'll just go from there."

KEN SCHRADER (No. 49 1-800-CallATT Dodge Intrepid)

NOTE: Schrader will start seventh in Saturday night's 43-car field. He qualified third earlier this season at Bristol and fourth at Martinsville.

"We did a lot of work before we came down here. Joey Arrington picked up the motor room. The car is slick. We came down and tested and put a lot of work into it. It's the same car we had here in February with a new body. We were just there in the 125. I thought we were decent in the 500, and we got knocked out. We had a different car in the Shootout, so that doesn't count. Andy Petree helped us some. Scott (crew chief Eggleston) had worked up there a little bit, and Andy has always been on top of the restrictor plate stuff. He had some testing stuff at his facility that he let us use. Petree and I are pretty tight. He thinks a lot of Scott.

"People, time and money. There's a point where you can just throw money into it and it doesn't do any good. If we hadn't had a week off to prepare for this race, we might have been in trouble down here. If you didn't have that week off and threw enough people and money at it, then you might could have made it anyway."

"I only raced four times during the week off. I didn't win anywhere. It went like the rest of my June went. I hope July is better. I wreck my own stuff, too. We had a good night at Pevely when I wrecked. Tony Stewart drove my other car. He didn't have problems with it until the last turn. A shock fell off. It's a new trick mount they've got and it's not bullet proof yet."

"There's some stuff you can do, but they get real mad when they find it. Our guys did a lot more with this car than bolting it together and putting all the springs in there. You have to maximize everything within the rules, and that's where a lot of time was spent. We really rubbed on it, all within the rules."

"We just need to get handling a little better and stay out of trouble in the race. The car wants to run. The motor and the body part want to run. Handling is important here in February, but it's even more important here at night in July."

"We're run 37 races down here and finished in the top 10 in 20 of them. You've just got to stay out of trouble. I've been running in front here and got in wrecks, and I've been running in the back and got in wrecks. It's just odds. You've got three cars in front of you maybe if you're running up front. If you're last, you've got 42 cars in front of you. The odds are better if there are only three in front of you."

"We were bad down here in one race. I think it was '92 or so. On a restart right after halfway, Rusty and I had been running by ourselves all day long. He was ninth and I was 10th. We were going to wind up sixth or seventh. We came off the turn and the first, second and third-place cars ran into each other going down the back straightaway and we all wrecked."

"I'd just as soon the race be caution free. Cautions breed cautions because we all get bunched back up. We'll work on the handling some more in the last practice, and I think we'll be in pretty good shape for the race."

JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid)

NOTE: Mayfield will start 10th in the Pepsi 400. He finished 10th two weeks ago in Sonoma, and he finished eighth - highest finishing Dodge - in the 2003 Daytona 500. Mayfield has reeled off three straight top 15 finishes.

"The chemistry has really come together on this team in the last few weeks. It's something we've been searching for, and I think we finally found it. All of a sudden the last four or five weeks, the communication has gotten better and the cars are better for me. I'm comfortable in the cars. It's like all of a sudden the lights came on."

"This is the same car we had here in February. I really feel like we've turned it around in the last few weeks. Everybody is afraid to say that because it might jinx us, but we know what we need to run faster. From the big picture I've seen that Ray Evernham has going on, you go through all these processes and once you get it, you've got it. I think that's what he looks for."

"We're running real good right now. I'm real happy with the car. We feel good about it, and we want to be the best Dodge here again. I ran with the 8 car in the first practice, and I feel real good about the way our car ran with his. If anybody can run with him, I think we can. Actually, I think we've closed the gap a little bit with the DEI cars. We won't know for sure until the race, but it'll be interesting to see what happens."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Shane Hmiel , Andy Petree , Ray Evernham