Daytona Twins: Kyle Petty - Dodge interview

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge Charger) NOTE: Petty, 44, led the way for Dodge in qualifying on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway with a lap of 186.974 mph. He'll start seventh in the first 150-miler on Thursday. ARE...

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

NOTE: Petty, 44, led the way for Dodge in qualifying on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway with a lap of 186.974 mph. He'll start seventh in the first 150-miler on Thursday.

ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH YOUR SUCCESS AT DAYTONA WITH THE NEW ENGINE PROGRAM? "I think it surprised a lot of people in the garage area, but at the same time they know Ray's stuff is good and you couldn't really judge how good or how bad our stuff was. I think that's been the biggest thing. Larry McReynolds came to Petty Enterprises a few years ago and helped out when Buckshot (Jones) was there. Looking at the numbers, Larry knew our cars were pretty good. He just couldn't understand why they wouldn't run. He congratulated me on how doing well in qualifying. Everybody has been congratulating me."

IS THIS YOUR THIRD ENGINE PROGRAM SINCE JOINING DODGE IN 2001? "Yeah, we did our own deal the first year. That was really bad. Then we went with Mike Ege, and Mike's stuff was really good the first year we were with him and then it just kind of deteriorated from year one down to where it was last year. It just got worse and worse, so we had to do something. Anybody can do it (build engines). You've just got to have the resources to throw at it and the resources to start it. Right now we don't have the resources to start it back up. At the time we had resources to maintain it, I just didn't think we had the personnel or I wasn't ready to manage it when we started in 2001 with Dodge. We had managed it for 50 years, and it just wasn't my favorite place in the shop, so I didn't go up there a lot. That's my fault for letting it fall through the cracks, but once it fell through the cracks I didn't feel like sinking more money into it to do anything else with it."

DO YOU GET TIRED OF CRITICS SAYING YOU SHOULD QUIT RACING? "I don't get tired of it. They've been saying that for 20 years. You hear it more because Mark and all these guys are retiring now, and they're right. I'm at that stage in my career where if I've got five or six years left, I'm a lucky man. I don't see myself driving five or six years down the road. I don't see myself quitting this year, either, so somewhere between that when you look at it you're OK. It's like I said the other day, the sport is changing. I don't think Jeff Gordon will make it to his 25th year like Rusty or some of these guys have. These guys are going to start retiring early. We're the last guys coming along doing this and it just so happens that not only am I in the last batch that's going to run until they're 45 or 50, I'm probably going to be in the last batch that's ever going to own and drive and be a part of that part of it, too. When I quit it'll take two categories out of the equation."

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO WIN ANOTHER RACE? "Personally it's important, but in the big picture of Petty Enterprises it's not important. The important thing is for us to be competitive. We don't have to win. If you could build back to where you could win, that would be big. If I can get back where Jeff Green wins races or even if I'm not in the 45 and it wins races or can win races that's good. It's not necessary before this thing is said and done that Kyle Petty has to get back in victory lane. I'm not downplaying that. I'd like to win races, but it's not the end all end all. When you put things on the priority list, that's not the No. 1 thing. The No. 1 thing is to get Petty Enterprises into victory lane."

HOW BIG WOULD IT BE FOR YOU TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500? "If I won the Daytona 500 I might quit this year. Maybe I'd just win and walk away. No, it would be big for us for a lot of reasons. When you look at it, you've got to look at my grandfather and my father has won here. The reason you drive the 45 is because of Adam. You've got to look at how far down we've been. You've got to look at this is our fifth year with Dodge and first year with Ray. When you look at it all at one time you say, 'that would be huge.' There are so many factors that go into it, but I don't think about that. We come down here to win the race. Everybody comes down here to win the race. Our secondary goal is always to get the year started on a solid foot, and we did that Sunday even though the 43 had trouble qualifying."

IF YOU COULD PICK A TRACK TO WIN WOULD DAYTONA BE IT? "I'm not sure. Today it would. After this race, it would probably be California. It would always probably be the next race. You'd have to say it's Daytona right now. I've been down here about 50 times, doing this for 20 plus years. After you do it for so long there really is no special place. I really enjoy driving the road courses. I enjoy that more than anything else, but there are no special places where you say, 'I've got to win there.'"

WHAT WILL YOU BE WORKING ON TODAY IN PRACTICE? "We'll just go back to the same stuff we ran down here in July chassis-wise when we did some tire stuff and other stuff. We'll start there and see where it goes. We're going to do whatever Greg (Steadman, crew chief No. 43 Betty Crocker/Cheerios Dodge Charger) and those guys did when they came down here. We just did a bunch of matrix stuff with springs and shocks and swaybars. Greg and those guys did all the drafting and qualifying stuff. It worked for us in qualifying, so you've got to stick with what works."

WILL THE 150-MILE DISTANCE MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE? "No, I wish they would have said, 'let's quit the 125s and go to nothing.' I don't see a need for the 125s.

These guys qualified. They work all winter long. They get their cars ready. They come down here and qualify and it should be like any other race. The biggest race we run, we still run heat races to get in the biggest race we run. They still run heat races on Saturday night. Why don't we do it at California or some place else? It's just become a tradition and the difference between 125 and 150 is nothing."

COMMENT ON NEW CREW CHIEF PAUL ANDREWS "Paul coming in for us has been big because if you go back over the last four or five years we tried to hire somebody that had potential to be a crew chief. We never really got to that point for whatever reason. This time when we hired Paul, you've already for a crew chief who's got experience and you don't have to worry about training him. That makes it a lot easier for Greg working with the 43. In the back of their mind they're not second guessing. I think they look at Paul and say, 'this is good.'"

WHAT'S THE KING SAID ABOUT YOUR SUCCESS AT DAYTONA? "He got sick. He was sick out here Sunday and all day Monday. He got to feeling better yesterday. When we did the deal with Ray, he said, 'OK, that will give us something to compare it to.' Then when we came down here and Ray personally and his people went out of their way to make Petty Enterprises feel like it's part of his stuff from the engine perspective. I think that makes The King feel a lot better about what we did and the move we made over the winter to Ray's stuff. You feel like somebody's worried about your engine stuff now, whereas last year or years before I don't think anybody was worried about it except us."

ARE YOU AHEAD OF WHERE YOU THOUGHT YOU'D BE? "We were way ahead at Vegas and California. Whether we can duplicate it or not and whether everybody else is going to be ahead, we don't know. We were surprised and impressed and the whole deal with the engine package at Las Vegas. That was big for us. I'm surprised at what a big step it was from the engine program we had to where we're at now and how big a step that made us take car-wise. We thought our cars were pretty good and you step up another level and our cars are pretty good. We just need to tweak 'em a little bit more. We need to catch up on car stuff, too."

COMMENT ON HAVING LAST TWO DAYS AWAY FROM TRACK "I ended up doing 10 million things, but some crew guys went to play golf and some went to Cape Kennedy and some went to Disney. There's so much pressure just to come down here and qualify and just get through the first two or three days. To have a release valve for a couple of days is good. Some teams went and tested and some teams just went surfing I

guess. I think it was good for everybody. To walk through the garage and see it locked up was good."

COMMENT ON YOUR WINTER SCHEDULE. DO YOU EVER GET WORN OUT? "Yes, when I need a day I take a day and I take a whole day. I just crash for a day. I might sleep 12 hours, but they're few and far between. That might happen three or four times a year."

COMMENT ON RUNNING LAS VEGAS MARATHON EARLIER THIS MONTH "It knocked me out, but it was fun. I was talking to Michael Waltrip about it and I'll do it again, but I don't want to do it at Las Vegas if the wind is going to be blowing again. We've got to find a place to do it where we can run and the wind's not blowing. It was cool. It's like coming to Daytona if you've never been. You do all the stuff and think, 'man, if I'd done this different I would have been faster or I could have fixed my fenders different and been faster.' It's the same way with the marathon. Once you've run one you feel like if you'd trained different you might not have hurt so bad afterward. You've got to go back and try to see if it does work. My thighs were sore about a day after the marathon, but that was about it. If we do another one it'll be in November or December. I'm going to train and get it right before I run another one."

-dodge-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Jeff Green