KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Petty qualified eighth last week at Talladega after failing to make the field the past three races. The other two Petty Enterprises Dodges qualified seventh (John Andretti) and 22nd (Buckshot...
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Petty qualified eighth last week at Talladega after failing to make the field the past three races. The other two Petty Enterprises Dodges qualified seventh (John Andretti) and 22nd (Buckshot Jones). Andretti and Jones were involved in an accident during Saturday morning's practice. Andretti switched to a backup car and Petty Enterprises employees jumped in to repair Jones' Dodge. Kyle Petty, 41-year-old Petty Enterprises CEO, talks about how the team pulled together at Talladega, changes under way for next season and his outlook for Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.
"If you noticed the one good thing about Saturday at Talladega after they wrecked, the 45 car just parked. Part of the 45 crew went to the 43 and part of the 45 crew went to the 44 car and tried to get the 43 and 44 ready to race. That was a big deal. It showed everything we've been preaching all year about teamwork and all that stuff. We parked one car, left a couple of guys working on it, and everybody else went out and helped the other two Petty Enterprises cars.
"We did a carburetor change for that second practice and that was it. We had already run it and got a plug check and were coming in when they wrecked. We were just in the right place at the right time and the 43 and 44 were in the wrong place at the right time.
"When we come to the race track, we don't bring a lot of fabricators. We only bring a couple of fabricators, period. Most of the guys are straight up mechanics. Even though they've all done stuff in the past, they're more used to the mechanical side of it. When we got over there, we needed to change the rear end housing on the 44 because it had been hit in the rear. We were debating on changing an engine, so we were trying to get another engine ready in case that engine couldn't make it. So they had their work cut out for them. Myself and Chris Martin that work on the 45 car jumped in there and beat the fender back in shape. We gave them an opportunity to let them go on and do what they needed to do.
"It looked a lot better than I thought it would. Obviously I'm not going to get a job as a fabricator on any Winston Cup team or get a job in a body shop painting cars, but it came out good. The last time I had to work on a car like that at a race track was when Adam wrecked at Charlotte before the ARCA race. We put it back together and he went out and won the ARCA race. I told 'em there was a lot of pressure on Buckshot at Talladega because he had to back up what Adam did.
"Steve Lane will be coming on as crew chief for the 45 team. He had been car chief with Jeremy Mayfield for the last three or four years. It's just another change in what we're trying to do. We're trying to hire better people. We feel like we've got a bunch of great people working at Petty Enterprises. We're trying to find people and hire people who have been at the other end of the garage area and have been winning races and understand a little bit more. Maybe there's something we're missing. To bring Steve in, we brought Richard Buck and Dan Vanetta a couple of weeks ago. They had been with the 33 and 55 car with Andy Petree's stuff. Andy had run good at Talladega and they had run good off and on at some of the other tracks, a lot better than we had. Then we bring in Steve, and he'll start at Phoenix and we're going to test at Rockingham, so he'll really start down there. It's our goal of looking at this end of the garage to try to hire people that come available.
"The engine deal for next year is a big change, a bigger change than I anticipated. It's a big change for us internally because we had always built engines at Petty Enterprises for 50 years. To shut down something you had been in business for for that long a period of time, it's kind of like shutting down your core of business, and that was us. We changed that around, and that's a big deal for us. Now we've got to make our cars better, and that's the whole point of bringing in some of these new guys -- for them to bring in fresh ideas and new ideas. Maybe we can make our stuff better.
"The three teams and three drivers (at Petty Enterprises) are set for next season and partial crews are set. I'm not going to say we won't continue to change some of the people on some of the crews. I'm not going to say we won't continue to change some of the people at the shop. We're going to continue to organize and look at and keep structuring. Our drivers seem to be pretty set. John has committed to stay. Buckshot has committed to stay. Our sponsors are all back for next year. Everything's the same there for the next couple of years. Long term we're looking pretty good. We've just got to get something done short term.
"Unless The King (Richard Petty) steps in and fires me, I'll be back next year in the 45. My mama says I can still drive, so that's OK.
"Phoenix has always been a good track for us, but the way this year has been, some of the tracks that have been good in the past have been terrible tracks for us this year. You can't go by that. We'd like to finish strong with all these teams the last five or six races no matter where we're at, whether it's a good track or a bad track for us. Decent finishes for us right now are realistically and honestly somewhere between 15th and 25th. If we can get in some kind of rotation and some kind of momentum instead of finishing 42nd or 43rd every week, then it'll be good for us.
"I used to ride my motorcycle out to Phoenix, but I don't have time to do that anymore. I used to have a good time going out there, but now you just go to race and that's it. We're testing Tuesday and Wednesday (at Rockingham). We'll fly out there Thursday and be at the race track Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We'll come back and I think we're going to Atlanta to test right after that. We really don't have time to do much but race.
"Phoenix is a race track where the car has to handle good. The car has to run good, too. You've got to have some motor. We don't feel like we've missed it that often in the handling department this year. Dodges have handled well for us. We've struggled with our motors. We've said from the beginning that we've struggled a little bit with the power. We're trying to get our power curve right. We've had good peak power and we had some good power in a lot of places. It was just always in the wrong place that the teams needed it.
"We won't use the new motors until next year. We won't test them until the season is over, either. We didn't want to jump in and mess up what we're doing right now. We're just waiting until next year. Those guys have contracts with a lot of the Ford teams to finish up this year. We didn't want that to come back on us, saying you started helping the Pettys and you dropped the ball on us. There's no conflict this way. They'll just do Dodge engines next season, just our stuff, the 43, 44 and 45.
"Keith Almond and his guys have worked really hard on our restrictor plate engines and if you go back every race, our cars have qualified better. We missed the first race at Talladega, but that wasn't our fault. NASCAR took our springs at the last minute. They passed inspection six times during the week and then the one time they needed to they didn't.
"We qualified 32nd and 33rd overall at Daytona and each time we went to a plate track the cars qualified and ran a lot better. We changed the bodies before we went back to Daytona and we qualified 17th or 18th at Daytona. When you look at it, gradually we've stepped it up. We would have liked to start the season in this position. These guys have worked really hard.
"John has been really frustrated, and he should be because he had better years the last couple of years than he had this year. Any time you take a step backwards, you get frustrated. Buckshot is still learning. Really, the last race at Martinsville was his first race at Martinsville. They broke early in the race the first time this year. They only ran 20 or 30 laps. By the end of the second race at Martinsville, he had gotten a lot better. Every time he goes out, he's learning. He gets a lap down and then he learns and he runs strong. That's part of the game. He gets a lap down because of poor qualifying. Look at the times he's had to use provisionals. Once he's able to start up front and run with those guys, he's got a good top 10 or top 15 car.
"Nothing has shaken my confidence as a driver yet. We don't make races, and I can pinpoint 10 different reasons why this didn't happen or why that didn't happen. Part of it has been me sometimes, and I'll admit that. It's not always been me. When it gets to the point where it's always me, then I'll say it's time to go away. Until it gets to that point, I'm not ready to get out of one yet.
"You can look at some people who were great drivers when they were 25 or 26 and then never did anything else. You look at other guys like Dale Jarrett who didn't start winning championships until he was 42 or 43. I'm 41 now, there's so many different age groups and spectrums, you can't go by that.
"I'm way too busy. I don't have time to cut out anything. You've got to make hay while you can. In this business or any business, you've got to stay on top of it. You've got to make as much and do as much as you can while you've got an opportunity to. Right now, I have an opportunity to drive and do some of the business stuff. At some point in time I'll have to give one of them up, and it'll probably be the driving part that I give up long before I give up the business side of it. I've got to do as much as I can on both sides now to prepare myself for that and still do this. The business side is fun sometimes."