Daytona II: Dodge Motorsports - Kyle Petty

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T) "This is a promotion that has been in the pipeline for awhile. Obviously with the release of Men in Black 2, Sprint is running a huge promotion with the company and with the movie coming out on July...

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)

"This is a promotion that has been in the pipeline for awhile. Obviously with the release of Men in Black 2, Sprint is running a huge promotion with the company and with the movie coming out on July 3, it was a perfect opportunity. This is the movie without static. If you watch the movie, they use Sprint PCS and Sprint products throughout the whole movie. This is the only time we're running it, and we're running it just to kick off that movie. We've run some special paint schemes before, but this is the first time Sprint has seen an opportunity to partner with a company and to partner with another entertainment venue to get some added exposure. I think along with that, if I can run the car as good as the first movie was, I haven't seen the second movie yet, then we'll be OK down here.

"Day or night at Daytona it doesn't make any difference. It's still . going to be 100 degrees. I think that's why we do the charity ride. . We did the Sprint Charity Ride last week. We do it the week before . the July race so you're used to the heat. I'm still standing here in . my long sleeve shirt just like I was last week during the ride. I'm . pretty much used to the heat. I'm not concerned about it "For the DEI . cars to have trouble. You can't argue with their success recently on . the speedway programs. You've got to look at what they've done here and. Talladega the past two or three years. It's almost back to when the . 4 car used to come here and dominate. No matter who drove the 4 car, . it was going to be a strong car here. It kind of fell to the wayside, . and there's been some other strong cars here through the years. The . Harry Ranier car when Cale Yarborough drove it. They used to come here . and the 28 car with Harry's stuff used to be the car. Right now it . seems like DEI and those guys in the engine department and body hanging. department have got their act together. Michael is really good with . the speedway stuff and little Earnhardt is really good on the speedway . stuff and Steve is good on the speedway stuff. That organization has . got a good grip on the restrictor-plate program .

"I gave him (father Richard Petty) a Sprint PCS phone and told him to call me sometimes when he goes to Wyoming. He disappears when he goes out there and he never calls home. Then he comes home and argues with me that everything I did while he was gone was wrong. We got close two weeks ago at Sonoma. We said all along that we felt like we could put a Petty Enterprises car in victory lane. On a consistent basis, we're not there yet, but we feel like that our organization has been to the top of the mountain but we've struggled in recent years. We feel like we're building back and we feel like we're on our way. John had a chance to win at Sonoma. Jerry did a phenomenal job. We struggled a little bit with the Sprint car, but it was a good week for us.

"There's a possibility any of our cars could pull it off (victory . in Pepsi 400). When we look at the Cheerios, the Sprint car and the . Georgia Pacific car, there's a possibility any of our cars could pull . it off, but you've got to be at the right place at the right time. . We're not a force on the speedway like the DEI group and some of . the other guys. Sterling has been incredibly good with the speedway . stuff, and I think Elliott has been good with the Dodge if you look . at that camp. I think Bobby Labonte and Tony have been good with the . Pontiacs. You come to Daytona or Talladega and you've got to talk about. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. I think each camp has a couple of . drivers, but the DEI group is still the team to beat "The King turned . 65 Tuesday. I don't look at him being 65. He's just there all the . time and you don't pay any attention to him. Of course, I don't look . at myself being as old as I am. (42). I don't think any of us do. He . still gets around. He still goes to all the race tracks. He still rides. a motorcycle across country with us. He still does everything he did . when he was 45. There's just more kids at the dinner table with all the. grand kids and that type of thing. That's how you go by age and that's . the way you see where he is .

"We had a phenomenal ride. The Sprint/Kyle Petty Charity Ride started last week from Sonoma and we had some really good experiences. We were in the middle of nowhere and Terry Labonte stopped on the side of the road and there was a little boy holding up a No. 5 pennant and Terry stops and spends about 15 minutes with him. That was really cool, and that was Terry's first ride. Matt Kenseth went with us, Jeff Green, Ken Schrader, Steve Park, Harry Gant, my father, we had more new riders and new drivers than in the past. We had an auction up in Virginia at the Homestead that rasied $130,000. That's biggest auction we've ever had during the course of the ride. Last year we were able to give $600,000 plus to some charities. This year it will be a lot greater than that. The ride has really expanded, and you guys standing here as the media deserve a lot of credit.

"We'd cross country and used to when we cross the Mississippi there would start being 50 or 60 people at a gas stop. The closer you got to North Carolina there'd be 150 or 160 people. We stopped in Jackpot, Nev., a town of probably 3,000 or 4,000 people and 1,500 of them came to the hotel. We came through Wyoming and Nebraska, you'd have 150 or 200 people at every fuel stop that had watched the Sonoma race. The sport has grown, but it can't grow without what you guys do and that helps our charity ride grow. We appreciate all you guys have done to help us grow.

"We're consistent. We considered ourselves an organization kind of like the Yankees. They had been to the top and won everything and then kind of fallen off and had to rebuild. We consider ourselves that type of franchise.

"We made changes in 2001 that affected us in 2002 and in 2005. When we look back, when we get to a point where we feel like we're as competitive as any team out here, we'll look back at 2001 as the year that made the most changes. Even though that was the worst year as far as results, I think as far as business decisions, personnel decisions, things that we made, I think that'll be a big year for us. I'm not the only person that kept the faith. We've got 160 to 200 guys at the shop who believed in what we were trying to do and still believe. We're not where we need to be by any stretch of the imagination. I've said it all along, We were the best team at running at the back of the field. Now we're pretty good at running 15th to 25th with all of our cars. By the end of the year, I'd like to have all of the Petty Enterprises cars be proficient at running 10th to 20th. That would be a good year for us. If we start out next year in the same place and by the end of next year be up where we can run in the top 15 to 20th on a regular basis and include that in a top 10 category on a consistent basis. We can run in the top five now and win races, but not on a consistent basi "Robin Pemberton has taken a lot of the day to day stuff off me. Brian Flynn, who came over from the Richard Petty Driving Experience a couple of years ago, has taken a lot of the burden off me from a business perspective. Used to I'd come in on a Monday morning and we'd talk about body locations or hanging a body or what we were doing on our speedway or short track program, and I'd have to talk to all the guys and crew chiefs and hash it out. Now, I'm a little bit more top shelf on that. I know everything that's going on, but I don't have to spend two hours in a conversation. I can spend 15 or 20 minutes on it and then move to another issue. Robin has those headaches right now, and he's done a phenomenal job for us this year. Once we get all the right people in the right places, and we're going to continue to make changes. I said it when we made our last change. When we changed drivers in the 44, I said that might not be the last change we make there. We may make other driver changes. We may make other crew chief changes. We're going to continue to evaluate and improve until we get all of our teams where they're competitive team.

"We've been down for so long and have struggled for so long. To get that first win or have some success would be huge for us. I think it would reward all the fans and all the people who have supported us. Through the hard times with Adam's accident and my grand father's death and with us not running like we should have run, you can't imagine the kind of support we get from fans all over the country. I think that's one thing that keeps you going. When you go out and run bad you're not the only one who hurts. You might hurt worse than everybody else, but you're not the only one who hurts. When something happens to you, other people feel what you're feeling and what you're going through. I think once we do get to a point where we can win, there will be some happy people. Now if we come out and win too much then everybody is going to get mad at us and pulling against us again. There's a fine balance there. We've just got to get back where we can win races.

"Jerry did a great job. We consider ourselves one team. We just run three cars. We don't treat our teams like three separate teams. I'd call in and ask our guys in the pits how Jerry was doing and they'd tell me he was leading by 10 car lengths and then by 12. They were giving me a lap by lap recap. Then they didn't give me anything and I asked what happened and they said he broke. I couldn't believe it, but you should have heard the disappointment in my crew's voice when they told me the 44 car had broken. For me, that was the most gratifying part of the day. Yeah, Jerry had a shot at winning the race and that would have been good, but to finally know that everybody at Petty Enterprises believed in the one team concept was a big deal for us.

"We talked about Watkins Glen when we did the Sonoma thing. Jerry has talked to a couple of people about a couple of different things. He's got to figure out where he's at and what he's doing. We're still trying to figure out where we're at and what we're doing. I don't want to pigeon hold Jerry Nadeau as just a road course specialist. He's got a ton of road course experience, but Jerry Nadeau can be and has been a winning Winston Cup driver. He's got to put himself in a position to run ovals and other stuff because that's what this series is. I don't want to position Jerry in a place like he's a Boris Said or one of those guys who just come in and run these road courses. Jerry is more than that. If an opportunity comes where he can go and run other stuff, then that's what he should do because he's got to look after his career. We'd like to have him run some races for us, whether it be oval or whether it be the road courses, but we've just got to figure out his plans and where he's going.

"The combination of body changes and our guys getting smarter and smarter from an aero perspective, the aero package we run today compared to the aero package of 20 years ago is the difference between a Boeing 747 and a Wright Brothers plane. We had basic knowledge of what it took for lift, downforce and drag 20 years ago. Now you have more of an intimate knowledge with it, so you can build a jet today where before you couldn't. I think the other part of that equation, NASCAR continues to throw variations of rules at you that make you keep tweaking. You never know everything. You may get a package and maximize it by 80 or 90 percent if you're fortunate. Some people only maximize by 35 or 40 percent, but if you can get to 80 or 90 before they change the package, then you're good. I think that's where the DEI cars are. They're maximizing their aero package and engine package and they're probably at 85 or 90 percent or maybe a little bit better than that. Some of us that are racing against them, we may be at 90 percent on our motor package and 50 percent on our aero or we may be at 50 percent on our motor and 100 percent on our aero. You don't know where they're at, but I think they have the best package, but I don't think you ever stop learning.

"The race is just having a driver that can put the car in the right place to take advantage of other things and be in the right place at the right time. Qualifying is all car. At Talladega is more car than driver even in the race. I think here you still have to have a driver that can make a car drive good and you have to have a team that can make a car handle good and you have to be able to put yourself in the right position, so a driver is still important here once they drop the green flag.

"We haven't signed (with Sprint). We're still talking to 'em. Hopefully before much longer we'll have some more on that.

"I think he (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) is going to be a factor in the sport and he's going to be a factor for a long time in this sport winning races, hopefully winning championships and hopefully taking our sport and making our sport a better sport. I think he has the potential to do that. Where he sees his place in it, you'd have to ask him. I think he and his group do a good job with the position he's been put into. I've not walked in those shoes and I hope and pray in a lot of ways I'd never have to. I think with everything Budweiser has done and everything DEI has done, I think they do a very admirable job looking after him and keeping him in the place he appears he wants to be. Once he changes that and he wants to be somewhere else, then I don't know what they're going to do, but for right now, they do a good job.

"Robin and I go back 20 years. We were outside the box when we started. It's not much of a stretch. When we get together and start talking about race cars and start talking about Petty Enterprises and where we see it going, we've been there on the same page for 20 something years, so that's not a stretch for us at all. Change is not hard when it makes everybody better. Some of the decisions we make are hard because they're very personal decisions. We have to look at it in a business aspect a lot of times and say what's good for 150 or 200 people is the way we look at it. Sometimes we've had to make sacrifices and change people around. We've had to move people to different positions and we've had to let people go. We've had a large turnover from our choice. I think that's just the nature of the industry and the nature of the business world at this point in time. It's tough. You spend sleepless nights at home thinking about it. At the same time when you can come back and make it better for the people that are there, then I think it's worth it.

"It's not tough for a driver at all (20-week stretch). I think any driver that says it's tough on them should probably be in another business. That's what you live to do, drive a race car. You look at Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart and these guys that drive four or five times a week, you don't see them complaining about a 20-week stretch because they love to drive race cars. That's the same way I feel about it, so when you look at that it's not tough for the driver. Owner-wise, it's not tough for an owner. You're already budgeted, you're already going. I think it kills the teams. I think it destroys teams. I think it hurts families in a lot of ways. You've got fathers out here that will miss part of the summer and part of little league baseball and dance recitals and horse shows. The next thing you know by the time they come out of this 20-race stretch, they're halfway through the next school year. They've missed the first half of the first grade or first half of the seventh grade or the first half of their kid's senior year in high school. That's hard on everybody, but I think it's more hard on the crews because the crews go back to the shop and work so hard and then they have to bust their humps and get back on the road. Any team out here will tell you they give the road crews off Mondays and Tuesdays. Being off in the middle of the week is not like being off on the weekend. Being off on a Monday is not a Saturday or Sunday. It's time off, but it's not the time you can spend with your wife because she has a job. It's not the time you can spend with your kids because they're at school. I think that's the hard part."

-dodge-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Steve Park , Kyle Petty , Boris Said , Jeff Green , Jerry Nadeau , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Harry Gant , Cale Yarborough