KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge Charger) NOTE: Petty, winner of the 1993 Daytona 500 pole position, was third fastest in Saturday afternoon's practice session at 47.793 seconds, 188.312 mph. COMMENT ON YOUR FAST LAP "I got...
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Petty, winner of the 1993 Daytona 500 pole position, was third fastest in Saturday afternoon's practice session at 47.793 seconds, 188.312 mph.
COMMENT ON YOUR FAST LAP "I got help. Morgan Shepherd had left and was on his first lap and he was running not fast enough. I won't say he was slow because he's faster than a lot of people. Obviously when you've got a car running 50-second flats and you've got another car running a 48, you catch it at a faster rate, so I caught him on both laps. We should have been somewhere around Travis Kvapil and Jeff (Green). I felt like our lap was close to Jeff's. You're standing here talking to me because I got help and I got a fast lap and I'll take that. I'm happy because you can learn some stuff from travel and what's going to rub and what's not going to rub. That's a fast lap. It made that 47.40 that Jeff (Gordon) ran look magical almost. Jeff (Green) and I both should shake out tomorrow somewhere in the top 10 or 15."
COMMENT ON THE EVERNHAM ENGINES "We've struggled for two or three years down here. Our guys at the fab shop have worked their tails off and our guys in the wind tunnel have worked their rear ends off to build really good cars. We've always felt like we had really good cars when we come down here. We felt like if we hadn't had the cars we had on numerous occasions we wouldn't have made the race just from an aero standpoint. We feel like our aero numbers are pretty good. Obviously our chassis stuff is pretty good. Greg Steadman has worked really hard with the 43 car to make the chassis stuff good. Just the combination of running slow for so many years and then finally getting some good motors -- all of a sudden you get Evernham power and you're up. None of this counts until you go out tomorrow, but our cars are pretty good. They're running good and the reason they're running good right now is because we've got Ray's engines. This is basically the same chassis and stuff we raced here in July and ran 25th or 30th with. We've just got more motor now."
HOW MUCH MORE MOTOR ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? "There's no telling. It feels like 600 (horsepower), but I don't you don't run 600 down here. It's just a ton more than we've had down here in the past."
WHAT WOULD YOU BE SATISFIED WITH TOMORROW? "We'd be satisfied with being in the top 20, just because we've struggled so much down here. Obviously it's different this year. The top 35 get in, so there's not as much pressure. It takes a lot of burden off of it, and if we qualify well we'll get a good starting spot in the 150s."
JEFF GREEN HAD A REAL GOOD TEST HERE IN JANUARY "We came down to gather data and he came down and tested. That's the way it worked. We didn't have a crew chief at that time. Paul Andrews came on board after the Daytona test. We came down here and went through shocks and swaybars, springs, trailing arms, track bar adjustments. We went through so many body attitudes just to match some of our wind tunnel stuff and back up data that we had gathered with Dodge so we could say, 'this is the way it is in the tunnel and this is the way it is on the racetrack.' We basically spent three days doing that. Greg took that information and that gave us a place to start. Our draft stuff is pretty good, too, and that's what we're really excited about. I think our drafting stuff is going to be better than our qualifying stuff."
IS EVERYTHING IN PLACE TO WIN? DO YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO WIN? "Yes, but we have to learn how to win. It's been a long time, and when you've been with teams that get out of the habit of winning you have to learn how to win. We're getting back to a point where we can be competitive. First you've got to be competitive. Then you've got to take advantage of a few mistakes and then you've got to learn when it's time to kill and when it's not time to kill and not go too quick. We're just out of that practice as a team. That's part of our deal, getting back to that stage this year. I'm not saying we won't win this year. I'm saying it will be a huge surprise if we do. We were 32nd and 35th in points last year. You don't come from 32nd and 35th to win, but we can get to a point this year where we could win and we could give away races this year. Once you start giving away races, then you can win races. We haven't been in a position to give away a race from a bad mistake or driver error or whatever it may be. We're probably closer to that this year. Like I said to our guys at the shop the other day, after five years and a lot of missed steps, it's as solid a winter and as solid a group of people working together at Petty Enterprises than it's been over the last four or five years. Ray brings that solid Evernham-Dodge connection again. We've always thought our aero program was pretty good. Our cars have shown again here that at least our superspeedway aero stuff is pretty good. Our downforce stuff has been competitive. Now with Paul Andrews and our engineering staff, we're just getting stronger. Paul brought in the experience. For four years we brought in car chiefs from other teams and tried to train them as crew chiefs. We're past that point. We needed a crew chief, and Paul was a crew chief who could come in and get the job done. The more we looked at it the reason we'd gone through so many crew chiefs the last two or three years was not so much the crew chief couldn't work with Jeff Green or John Andretti or Kyle Petty. It's we had multiple crew chiefs that wouldn't work with each other. The 43 team wouldn't work with the 45 team or the 45 team wouldn't work with the 43 team. When Paul came in, I was not a part of his interview process. The interview process was with him, the guys on the 45 team and Greg Steadman. If they can work together, that makes it a stronger team. That's the way we did it this time. It's kind of abnormal probably, but that's the way we did it. The other ways weren't working."
DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS LIKE WINNING THE POLE HERE IN 1993? "We didn't expect to win the pole. We expected to be in the top four or five. It was a bad winter, but to come out and win the pole was good. We were in the race. That's one of the few times I've been locked in the race."
WILL YOU GO TO BED TONIGHT THINKING YOU'VE GOT A SHOT AT THE 2005 DAYTONA 500? "I'm going to bed tonight thinking I've got a shot at somewhere in the top 10 or 15. I'm just being realistic. We have to set realistic goals and reach those goals. Our goal was to come down here and be in the top 15. We'll build on top of that. I think we're pleasantly surprised that both cars are as fast as they are and we were able to back up our tests times. Any time you can come back and back it up you're doing OK. Jeff (Green) may have a better shot. They've been a little bit better than we've been, so we'll go from there."
WILL THIS BE A MORALE BOOSTER FOR THE TEAM? "To work as hard as these guys have worked for four years and let's just take today. To have nothing to show for how hard they've worked year after year after year after the first day at Daytona, eventually you think maybe I need to be playing cricket. Maybe I don't need to be in this business. After four or five years to come out after the first day and both cars in the top 20 all day long, it's a huge morale booster for the guys at the shop. We've been down there in the 55th and 56th positions before and still been there Friday before the race. We've missed Daytona in the past. We missed the July race. I think it's a huge morale booster and a huge boost for the guys at the shop."
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER NOT MAKING THE JULY RACE HERE? "It made for some business changes at Petty Enterprises as far as who we do business with and who we don't do business with. I missed Homestead, too, but I didn't pay any attention to it. I knew we were going to Ray's. The die was already cast. We were already 35th going into Homestead and we were going to come out 35th. We didn't have anything to gain or lose, except another race for four sponsors. That was not a major setback for us."
WHO WILL BE THE FAVORITES FOR THE POLE? "I'd say the 24, 38, 97, 48 and then I'd drop back to the 88 and 01. I think they're going to be tough."