KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Petty will start 14th in Sunday's 43-car field. His best starting spot this season was 11th at Las Vegas. Petty has finished 15th, 14th and 12th in the past three races and moved from 38th to...
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Petty will start 14th in Sunday's 43-car field. His best starting spot this season was 11th at Las Vegas. Petty has finished 15th, 14th and 12th in the past three races and moved from 38th to 25th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings. The 41-year-old driver from Level Cross, N.C., will make career start No. 616 on Sunday.
"We've been pretty good a lot of places this year, not great any place. Last year, we were junk a lot of places. It's a big step up, but we're pretty decent. We've always been where if you qualify pretty good you can race pretty good. That's the way we were in Las Vegas. We qualified good and we felt like we were racing pretty good and we had a gear go out. That kind of messed us up, but even in other places where we didn't qualify as good, we still raced good. We feel OK about it.
"Texas is a big market for Sprint. This race is the Samsung/RadioShack race. That's a big part of what Sprint is. If you look at our car, they gave up the Sprint on the side of it. It says Samsung on the side of it for this race, so that's a big deal. If you run like we ran last year, you couldn't help anybody. It wasn't like this is going to be a big race for us. They were all big races, but you just couldn't do anything. This year we're a little bit better in that department.
"You're pleased that things are working like they should be. Like I said last year, some things we did last year we were right on target with. Our performance on the race track, we weren't on target with. This year, we're on target with our performance on the race track. We feel like we're where we should be. Ultimately, we're not where we want to be, but we're where we should be at this point in time. When you look at it like that, only being 16 months into it, we're where we should be. At least we're hitting our marks and hitting our targets. Last year we weren't as good at that. We need some more consistency with the 43 and 44. We're not as consistent as we want to be in the 45 by any stretch, but the 43 and 44 have had incredibly bad luck. They've been at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it's got nothing to do with how they run.
"I think Sterling was a factor all last year. You've got to take Sterling out of the Dodge equation this year. When you look at last year and he finished third in points and won a couple of races, they were already established. Where the Dodge teams have shown improvements this year, Ray Evernham's team has won poles. They've run good the first six races. Jeremy Mayfield has been a definitely plus for that program, and I think Bill Elliott, just from being another year away from being a car owner and just being a driver, he's better this year than he was last year. I think that shows, too. I think that program is up.
"I think Bill Davis' program with the 22 has stepped up, and the 23 is just going through some bad learning curves. That's part of it. You've got to look at what they did. They started all over one year into the Dodge program with a brand new team. You can't really go off that. You look at our three teams and what we've been trying to do. We're a lot better than we were last year. You look at the whole Dodge program, I think Sterling being the flagship, I don't look at him running any better than he did last year right now. I think he just picked up where he left off last year. I do think the other three or four teams have made a big improvement over the winter. You're still not where Sterling's at, but you're a lot closer to where the lead cars are.
"Any of our cars can win races. Having said that, we're back to the Sterling issue. I think if you look at the 40 car, it can win week in and week out. Can the 41 car win races? Yes, but I'm not sure the 41 can win week in and week out. I'm not sure the 22 car can win week in and week out. They're in a little bit better position than we are. We feel like we can win a race. But we're going to be the kind of team right now that wins a race and runs 12th the next week. You finish in the top five and the next week you run 15th or 16th. That's kind of where we're at. We've not built to that point. We're not a top five team like the 18 or 20 or 40 or 24. A lot of teams out here can win races but only a few teams are going to win consistently.
"I'll be real surprised if it's not a single file race on Sunday. Go back to the first year here. The race track was fast and everybody complained about the race track because the transition into the corners was too radical. There wasn't any taper to it. It was a single-file race and Darrell wrecked everybody going into turn one. That's just a fact. That's the way it was. After that, everybody got in line and the rest of the day it was a single-file race. If you go to the front, you were good. It was all about track position. That's kind of the way it's going to be tomorrow unless the Busch race does something spectacular and they open up another groove. This year it's going to be a single-file race. Next year, it'll be a groove and a half and by the third year it'll be a good race track.
"That's nothing against Texas or against this race track. Show me any race track in the country like this, a Chicago or Kansas City or California. If they pave it, it's going to go back to a single-groove race track. Until the pavement wears out on the bottom and you've got to move up and find new pavement, it's just going to be a single-groove track.
"About the only place you're going to be able to pass is in the pits. You're going to have to have really good pit stops. You're going to have to put yourself in position to capitalize on green flag stops and capitalize on having a good pit crew. We feel like we've got a good pit crew. We'll find out tomorrow, just like everybody else. Everybody who thinks they have a good pit crew will find out tomorrow just how good it really is. I don't know about two tires with the new asphalt. We'll have to wait and see about that.
"I think the main thing that Robin Pemberton to the table is for the guys at the shop and the guys on the race team. He gives them a lot of confidence. He gives me a lot of confidence. He comes from an organization where they were winning races and where they had shots for championships. When you look at our team and the way we were last year, people begin to get down. All of a sudden you bring in somebody like Robin and they suck it up and work harder. I think everybody works a little harder for him. His knowledge and what he says, well, when he says something, people listen. There's a lot of credibility there. It's not like me saying something and saying it's the right way. A lot of people think they know the right way, but he's proven over the last two or three years that what he knows works. I think that's a big deal.
"Robin and I have known each other a long time. He first went to work at Petty Enterprises when we were teenagers. The two biggest changes that have paid off for us quickest has been Robin and Mike Ege's racing engines. Ege has been a huge plus for us. That was Robert Yates Engine Mfg., now it's Mike Ege's Racing Engines. You know they built engines for the 66 and 26 and 32 and guys like that that won races last year and sat on poles. Now we've got an engine program that should be capable of sitting on poles and winning races. That's been a big plus. Robin already had a relationship with Ege when Ege worked with Penske four or five years ago. He just tied a lot of stuff together. Robin is one common denominator that has worked with everybody and knows how to make everything work.
"I haven't made the race here the last two years. I didn't make the race when Adam was here two years ago. I look back on it and I think about it now. I'm glad I didn't make it. I got to stand on top of the truck and watch him run his first Winston Cup race, and that was a big deal. I couldn't have been more proud. He had trouble and fell out. Last year, I don't think my head was in the game. That was my fault we didn't make the race. It didn't have anything to do with the car. I just couldn't get my head straight. This is always a pretty cool place for me to come to because this is where Adam ran his only Winston Cup race. His accident happened May 12 that year.
"The King comes to about 90 percent of the races. He still does a bunch of stuff for STP and General Mills. He's still working. He says it's working anyway. We're probably closer now because we don't do a lot of stuff together. I don't mean that bad. It's not a competitive environment. We're on the same side, working for the same thing. He gets in the middle of everything and has a lot of input. We still listen to him. What he brings to the table a lot of times is a real simplistic view of looking at them. This sport has gotten so technical. There's so much computer stuff and so many technical aspects of it. Sometimes it's better to wipe all that out and say, 'why is it doing this?' You look at it simple and don't try to analyze it. You just go back to the seat of the pants stuff and find the answer. A lot of times it's like talking to a kid when you've got a problem. He cuts right to the heart of the matter and it cuts all the other part away. He brings that to the table. "I still call him The King. That's just because I worked at the race shop and that's what everybody there called him. I just grew up around the race shop and everybody referred to him as The King. You pick up on it. I'm probably the only child in this country who calls his father The King.
"A decent year for the 45 team compared to the past would be where we are right now. We're 25th in points and running consistent somewhere between 10th and 20th. That's a huge step up for us from last year. When you look at improving from 42nd to 25th, percentage wise that's a huge percentage. A lot of teams out there would like to improve that big of a percentage. Granted, we were at the bottom of the pack, but that's a big jump and if we can stay there, that would be a good year for us. I think that's what we look at. If we can come out of this year somewhere in the top 25 in points, that would be a good year for us. I think we're close to that. Consistency is going to be big for us. Right here is where we need to be now. Next year we need to be further up. We can't get lost in being first or second or whatever. Then you lose sight of what you're doing.
"The Dodge program was our long term goal, and our five-year plan is always changing. I think I should refer to it as our long range plan. There are marks we want to hit in the first five years. I don't know how much longer I'll drive. If it's five years or 10 years, there are places I'd like the company to be, and there are things I'd like to see our other two teams do. Whether I'm part of it or not as a driver, it really doesn't play into the equation. I don't have to be the driver of the 45 when it wins the championship. John doesn't have to be the driver of the 43. John may be driving the 45 and I might be driving the 43. For us to have our company back in that position, that's where we need to be.
"I'm probably more of a driver this year than I was last year. We're still going through that transition with Robin. I don't know how much I'm a driver. They never refer to me as an owner/driver. All I ever hear is how much time I spend too much time working on the business side and not driving the car. Then when you start talking about owner/drivers they never talk about me."