KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T) "It doesn't help any to go from one hard race to another. You'd rather run a Charlotte and then something like California or Chicago. I'd say 500 miles at Dover equals a good 600 miles at Charlotte....
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"It doesn't help any to go from one hard race to another. You'd rather run a Charlotte and then something like California or Chicago. I'd say 500 miles at Dover equals a good 600 miles at Charlotte. I don't think 400 miles at Dover is a bad race. Five hundred here was bad. A guy who doesn't make it in a Winston Cup race is just not in shape. In my opinion, once you get to this level, unless you're sick with the flu or food poisoning or something like that, if you can't run a race you don't need to be at this level. It's like saying I've got an engine guy but he can't fit the valves.
"Mark Martin got tired last week in Charlotte, and he's in shape. I'd put him up against any of these guys. You could see him being tired after it was over with, but everybody else was tired, too. When you begin to get physically tired, then mentally you get tired, too, and it begins to drag you down just as bad. At the same time, mentally when the race starts you could be in a bad mood or just be tired and it'll drag you down physically. I'm in a conservation mode at my age. I use as little energy as possible in everything I do. The King didn't teach me that, but he's been in that conservation mode.
"I think we're qualifying better because the cars are better and the one engine rule has been good for us. It let our guys focus on nothing except single engines. We closed up our in-house engine shop and went to Mike Ege engines. That was formerly Robert Yates Engine Mfg. out of Charlotte. When we changed that, these guys went from Ford engines to Dodge engines, and we went from having qualifying engines to not having qualifying engines. It allowed them to focus on one engine, and it's helped us straight across the board to advance our program a little bit faster than we thought it would. It's an equalizer for qualifications because we don't have to have an engine with 1,000 hp to go out there and run and then back up to the race engine.
"We were good at running 35th-43rd last year. At the end of the year we got pretty good at running 25th-35th. Our goal was to start this year running somewhere between 15th and 25th. We didn't have any unrealistic expectations. We didn't think we were going to go out and run in the top five. We wanted to run somewhere between 15th and 25th. If you go back to the first part of the year, all of our cars were somewhere between 15th and 25th. After three or four races, we started finishing pretty consistently. Our team, the 45 team, has probably stepped up a little bit. We're probably ahead of where we wanted to be. Our goals are 15th-25th. We've been able to run a lot more in the 10th-20th positions, but still our goal is between 15th and 25th. We've got to get the 43 and 44 cars to run more consistently in that range. We didn't have any expectations that we were going to come into this year and be a threat to win the championship by the end of the year by any stretch of the imagination. When we started with the Dodge stuff last year, it was a long-range plan to get back to where we were. We thought it might take four or five years. We're only in the second year of the Dodge program and we're pretty much on schedule.
"I'm three or four years removed from the Pontiac program. Technology changes, tires change, everything changes. We feel like the Dodge has a lot better aerodynamics than the Pontiac had. The Pontiac aerodynamics have advanced, too. I think it's a lot more equal now than it has been in the past. We changed to go with the Dodge program, so we're concentrating on that.
"We need three teams. We have three teams because of Adam. I've said that from the very beginning. The reason we have three teams is because of the plan we laid out. It was three teams because of a personnel standpoint, from engineering, an engine program, from a cash flow. We laid out a financial model, and you have to follow that financial model with what you have on the race track. We need three teams for a number of years, whether that's three, five or 10 years. We evaluate every 18 months on where we're at and where we need to be. For the foreseeable future through 2005 and 2006, we need three teams. We grow by three teams. We get more information from testing. We're able to move the ball forward a little faster with three teams than two. From a financial standpoint, everything we do has to be three teams. The other thing that happens when you have three teams and you try to approach things the way we are, you can't leave one team behind. Two teams can't be in the top 10 and one team be 45th and then say we're where we want to be. We came out here yesterday and the 45 Sprint car qualified 11th and the other two cars took provisionals. That's not where we want to be. We would be better as a group if all three of our cars took provisionals and then the consistency would be there. That's what we're looking for. We need all three cars to be within a tenth of 15 hundredths of each other. We may be spread out, but when you look at the time sheet we want to be close. Those are little yardsticks of how we measure our progress and measure where we're at. We need three multiple teams through 2005 and 2006.
"All of our stuff right now looks pretty good. Georgia Pacific and General Mills picked up their options on our stuff. Right now, we're waiting to hear from Sprint on where we're at with theirs. We're confident we can stay there. We're good with Red Wing, Coca-Cola and our associates sponsors. You don't want to have three teams and at the end of 2003 be looking for three major sponsors in Winston Cup Racing. We're not prepared for that, and I don't know many teams that are prepared for that. It has to be a staggered process where you may have to change one sponsor one year and the other sponsor another year. We're pretty confident that the people we're working with and our sponsor partners are going to be with us for a long time.
"You can't paint a picture with one broad brush stroke and say that's what sponsors are looking for. There's a multitude of sponsors out there and they're measuring their sponsorship success in a multitude of ways, not necessarily wins. Sometimes it's not necessarily products. It depends on the people who run the programs and the CEOs and how perceive it and how the public perceives it. I look at Caterpillar a lot of times. There's not a lot of people sitting up there in the grandstands that are going to go out and buy Caterpillar equipment. At the same time, it's a great opportunity for Caterpillar to come here and build a name brand and build on the brand they have and send people who are going to buy equipment to a race and to the hospitality tent. You could have cars that run mid pack or the back of the pack as far as the sponsorship package is concerned and they incredibly happy to be a part of NASCAR and what's going on.
"John's contract ran through the end of this year with us. John's runs through the end of the year. At the same time, Buckshot's ran through the end of the year. I don't know how long mine is. I've got to talk to 'em. From that perspective, John has been out talking and there's rumors of this and that, and that's just a fact of life in Winston Cup racing. You deal with that all the time. We'll see what happens.
"We're hearing from people. Would we have heard from people last year? No. We wouldn't have heard from anybody. I don't think we would have heard from anybody last year for any of our cars. That's an honest assessment of where we were last year. We have heard from other drivers about the possibility of coming to work with Petty Enterprises. We want John to stay. We would be remiss to change drivers. John has a lot of potential. We didn't give John the car last year that he was capable of going out and running up front with. I told him yesterday as disappointed and down as he was when he spun, I give him style points for spinning at Dover and not hitting anything. That's huge when you can spin up here and not hit anything. John has the potential to win races. He's done it before and he's done it for other teams. We've just got to give him a package race wise that suits him on the race track. That team has struggled a little bit this year. Last year, they were the best team we had. They weren't great, but they were the best team we had. This year they've struggled. We've got to evaluate where they're at, and John is a part of that evaluation. He's given us a lot of input. I know his head is in the game because he's given us input on what he thinks we can do. I know he's still concentrating and still focused.
"The camp is going well. We hope to break ground some time in July or August. We've already started doing a bunch of stuff. As far as the charity ride goes, we start it right after Sonoma and end up back at our house on June 30. All that stuff comes along
whether we want it to or not. It comes up every year. We ride motorcycles across country, and it's a lot of fun. The majority of money now from the charity ride will go to the camp. For the charity ride this year, the route goes from Sonoma to Jackpot, Nev., to Jackson Hole, Wyo., to Cheyenne, to Omaha, to Chicago to Cleveland to Hot Springs, Va., to home. Most of that is Interstate 80. In the past, we've run mostly Interstate 20 and 10 and we have run 40 a couple of times. We're a lot further north this year than we've ever been. It takes eight days. It used to be a seven-day ride. They leave on Sunday while we're racing in California.
"The first year we pulled in a gas station and the lady cut off the pumps and locked the doors and wouldn't give us gas. She was afraid of us, and there wasn't but 35 of us then. There's like 150 or 160 of us now, so it'll be a lot different.
"Last year, we felt like we were going to be good up here the first race, but the rain caught us. We had missed so many races and that was the struggle we had last year. We got off to such a poor start last year with the Sprint team, and that just compounds itself in Winston Cup Racing. Once you miss a race or two, it's tough to rebound when things start to go bad. The biggest sign that we've started to turn the corner is all our teams are finishing somewhere between 25th and 15th. You go somewhere and Steve Grissom ran eighth at Richmond. You get excited about that, but you just exceeded your goals that day. You've got to stay focused on your goals. Your goals are 15th-25th. You can't be disappointed if you run 16th. You're right where you need to be to build on it.
"I go back to when Pearson and my father and Cale and all those guys drove. The one thing all those guys had was a tremendous amount of respect for each other and a tremendous amount of respect for the other people that worked on the cars and the other teams and equipment. They had a lot of respect for the whole group. Not that these guys didn't beat and bang on each other.
"Then you had another group that came along and you're always ruining the sport. If you get more than one or two coming in, they're always ruining the sport. I think the difference between where The King and those guys were and where this group is now, I'm not sure this group of drivers has the respect for each other that the older group had. It's just different. You see it in basketball and baseball. You see it in all sports where they make comments about each other. You never used to see that in basketball and baseball. You never used to see somebody dunk on somebody or shoot over somebody and point his finger in his face and run down to the other end of the court. It just didn't happen. I think the sport has changed. At the same time, you didn't have road rage 30 years ago, either, so society has changed, too. Sports are a reflection of society, so things have changed. What concerns me the most, more than that, is the lack of respect people show for what they drive."Running into people on pit road and jamming into each other when the race is over. These drivers get out of the car and they go back to their house on the lake or they go fishing or whatever. That poor guy that works at the shop, he's the guy who has to hang a body on Monday morning and then get cussed out because the aero numbers didn't come back exactly the way it was and it was my favorite car. How come you ran into the guy when the race was over? There's variations of it. The younger drivers, I'm not going to base it on younger drivers, I think drivers today period take a different look on racing or having a different attitude than drivers 20 or 30 years ago. Is that bad? I'm not going to say that's bad. I'm not going to criticize anybody today or anybody in the past. I'm just going to say it's different, but I think it's different in any sport there is right now. I think it's that way in society, too.
"I think years ago, drivers had enough of something that they may not wait until the next race, but they'd go talk to the drivers. These guys are afraid to go talk to each other. They'd rather do it in public and get public opinion instead of going to somebody's truck and talking to somebody and saying I didn't like the way you did this or the way you did that. You don't see that as much as you used to. I think the drivers take out their aggressions in other ways. Waiting for the other race doesn't do anything."