Indianapolis: Kyle Petty - Dodge Friday interview

Kyle Petty (No. 45 Marathon Dodge Charger) On 800 career starts? "Eight hundred. Hard to believe isn't it. Hard to believe I have been around that long. I told someone the other day, I was over at Adam's old late model shop, and there is a...

Kyle Petty (No. 45 Marathon Dodge Charger)

On 800 career starts? "Eight hundred. Hard to believe isn't it. Hard to believe I have been around that long. I told someone the other day, I was over at Adam's old late model shop, and there is a picture in there on the wall. I had my 500th career start when I was driving for Hot Wheels at Phoenix. I thought man 500, my Father drove in like 1,200 or 1,300 and I am like - you'll never get to that point. And then I never really thought about it. All of the sudden the other day I didn't really realize it until I was doing the Turner stuff, that one of the TNT guys said statistically your 800th start will be at Indy. I said you are kidding right and he said, "no." I don't know what it says. I think it says that I'm old and I've been here for a long time. I think that's about all it really says. But it's been cool, because as I have thought about it a little bit, it's funny because I look back and I was very fortunate and very blessed to race on the same race track with a David Pearson, a Richard Petty, a Cale Yarborough, a Buddy Baker, a Bobby Allison. Guys like that in the late '70s and early '80s when they were still winning races and still in their prime. Then I was able to race through the '80 and the '90s and you race with Jeff Gordon come on the scene. You've seen Dale Sr., evolve into what he was. You have been around for Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton and that age group that has come along. Now you are sitting here on the back side and you are able to see a Kyle Busch come along. Or a Kasey Kahne. Or a Casey Mears. And these young guys, you know like , Denny Hamlin who has come along and are coming into the sport. It's kind of funny you can reach back and have memories of a bygone era that everybody says that they are still madly in love with, but at the same time you see how the sport has evolved and how healthy the sport is and where it is heading."

Does it mean anything more to have it here at The Brickyard? You know for me it would probably mean more to have it at Rockingham where I won some races just to be totally honest with you. But it's cool to have it at a place like this. This here is an event. This is a huge event. I think Indy on our schedule, and I have compared it to like I told someone when we were talking the other day, in a sport if you compare it to golf or something this has become a major for us. If you look at our 36- or 38-week schedule and you have three or four majors obviously this is one of the majors in our sport. To have an event like that take place at an event like this is pretty special.

On the mergers: "I think what it says about the sport is, you're missing the point, it's not a sport any more it's a business. It's moving closer and closer and closer to becoming a total business. It's only a sport on Sunday. It's business six days a week. We go out there and we race on Sunday and all the political issues that go along with the business side of it, all the points, all the mergers, anything that goes on is on the back burner for those glorious four or five hours that you can go out there and truly do what you want to do. Then you get out of the car and the first question they ask you in victory lane after you win is, "How are you going to like your new teammates?" So now it is back to the business side again. I think when you look at it, the face of the sport, it constantly changes. It's changed with closing down Rockingham, closing down North Wilkesboro, going to Charlotte, going to Kansas, going to Dallas, going to L.A. Obviously the face of the sport has changed to what the public saw out there, but what I think you are seeing is now it is changing internally. A lot more internally than what it has changed in recent years."

Do you think everyone is going to have to do the same thing? "Oh, I think everyone is going to have to do the same thing. I think you are going to end up seeing it where in the past we have had 43 teams and 43 owners. Let's just use the number 43 because that is how many cars there are in the field. There may be more. We could use 50. We could use whatever you want to use. We've had 43 teams, 43 owners and 43 drivers. Then all of the sudden we had owners who owned two cars. Then owners that owned four cars. Now we had drivers who were not only drivers, but they are teammates. Then we had alliances where, you know one of the first alliances we had was Childress/DEI/Andy Petry, when they did their RAD system and sharing wind tunnel time and all of that stuff. And that was an alliance. That was not a team. That was an alliance. More and more you have Roush and Yates building all of the Ford engines, you have Toyota building all of their own engines. You have a consolidation of Childress and DEI building engines. We're seeing the engine package consolidate. There are fewer and fewer engine builders out there. If you go through the garage area here you will see that there are six or seven engine builders for 43 cars. So why shouldn't the rest of us follow suit? Then you are going to have six or seven or 10 owners for 43 cars. That is about what you are going to get down to at one point in time. If you get down to 10 or 12 owners that own three or four cars apiece now you are looking at 40 or 45 cars. And when I say that, the same 43 owners may still be here, but now it is going to be a Ginn/DEI team. It's going to be a Yates and whoever he announces he is going to partner with today. It's going to be that type of deal where there is a lot more consolidation in the sport, but you see it in every industry. You know Ford went out and bought Jaguar, Volvo and everybody else so multiple car brands owned by one separate company. I think you are going to see the same thing here where you are going to have multiple race teams owned by one parent company if that is the way that it flushes out."

On four car teams? "This is what amazes me about things anyhow. Nobody really started talking about four car teams until NASCAR said that you couldn't have any more than four cars. Then everybody said, 'Oh my God -- we've got to have a four car team.' Everybody was already on that multiple track -- the twos, the threes -- and everybody was already looking that way, but I think that when NASCAR made the rule and said four-car teams only then I think it accelerated the curve. Then everybody said, 'Oh my God -- that's all we are ever going to be able to have. We have to get there quick.' I think you see something with the DEI and the Ginn thing, where DEI has three and Ginn technically had three, and now they go together and there are only four left. Do we look at that as expansion or do we look at that as contraction? From the sports stand point do we look at that as a positive move or do we look at that as a negative move for the sport because we are losing a car? At some point in time we are losing a car here. That is why I say when it all shuffles out you are going to have to look at how the sport expands, how the sport contracts and how the sport ends up before you can say, do we need to move fast or do we need to move slow. I don't know. I think you still have time to figure things out before you see the lay of the land."

On driver development: "Sometimes when I look at the Busch Series, and even when I look at the Car of Tomorrow right now, then the last two or three years of the Busch Series, unless you have brought a driver to the Cup series by now, has been a waste of a series for you. The Car of Tomorrow is so radically different from the Car of Today that if you have a Busch Series driver today that you were hoping to bring up with driver development it's not really working out for you.

"Why is it from a business model or from a NASCAR stand point, why is it my job as a Cup owner to keep the Busch Series alive? It's not my job to keep the truck series alive. Let them find their own owners and their own people and stand on their own. If they can't stand on their own then it's a bad business model and they need to go out of business. I know other teams do it, but when I look back at it and see they guys that are doing it, like Hendrick, who drives his cars? Casey Mears and Jimmie Johnson. They just take their Busch stuff and have turned it into an income-producing item for them now because they put sponsors on them because they put Cup drivers in the car. I see the Busch Series as an income generator, but not as a driver development. Should we have a Busch Series or a Truck Series from an income stand point? Maybe so. I am not going to argue that point. From a driver development standpoint I will argue that point with you all day long. I have not seen a lot of that pan out here.

"Even the guy that started it when he first started the program was Jack Roush when he got it going, then he had to go back and beg Mark Martin to come back for one more year, because he didn't have a driver developed to go in the seat. So I don't think that was a good plan when it was all said and done. I think it was a lot of hype but not a good plan. It depends on, I think from any business if you are going to take on a partner or take on an investor, you could walk in today and offer me $20 million, but if I don't have a plan for it or spend it in the right place it doesn't make a difference.

"When I hear some of these mergers and I look around and see some of the things that have gone on I am not really sure I see things changing drastically. They are just refining themselves. As I look at some of the things that have been announced over the last year, year and a half total, I am not just saying the DEI/Ginn thing. The way things have been announced, the way things are going together and the way teams are working together I am not sure how that model is going to play out. I have not seen a lot of pluses. Is that the right way? What I am saying is if we put Gibbs and Hendrick together, the two hot teams, how much hotter can they get? They are already the hottest teams. If I put a hot team and a cold team together do I just get a warm team? Do I bring them down and bring this up? My point is when I put the DEI and the Ginn stuff together what am I really going to get? I don't think any of us know that, but you have to withhold judgment and see how that plans out. For us as a company do we take on an investor and try to start two teams? Or do we partner with another team to get to a four car team? I think you have got to see a couple models to see how they play out before jumping and biting off too much to begin with. You have to look at it more from a business standpoint, and not from a sports standpoint, because I am not sure what you are going to get. I am not sure how it is going to play out."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Kyle Petty , Casey Mears , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin , Buddy Baker , Cale Yarborough , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin