Kyle Petty Transcriipt from Dodge Teleconference Tuesday, Aug. 10,2004. KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge) NOTE: Petty, a 44-year-old driver from Randleman, N.C., will make career start No. 700 on Sunday at Watkins Glen. Petty...
Kyle Petty Transcriipt from Dodge Teleconference
Tuesday, Aug. 10,2004.
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge)
NOTE: Petty, a 44-year-old driver from Randleman, N.C., will make career start No. 700 on Sunday at Watkins Glen. Petty has eight wins and eight poles in his 699 previous Cup starts, and one of those wins came at Watkins Glen in 1992. In 16 starts at The Glen, Petty has scored four top-10 finishes.
ARE YOU PLANNING ON MAKING 700 MORE STARTS?
"I'd like to count backwards from 700 to where I started and do it all again. I think any time you run a lot of races, you never think about how many you're running. You're always looking to the next one. It's pretty cool to have run this many races, but you've got to remember I started a long time ago. I started when I was 18. I've missed races because of wrecks, and I've missed races because I wasn't fast enough. I've missed races with Felix and them just because when I went to drive for him we cut back to half a season. It's exciting to be in a business and be in a league where you can be with Terry Labonte and Ricky Rudd and guys like that who are still out there running and have over 800 starts. It's pretty cool to be in a sport where you can stick around that long."
COMMENT ON BEING A RACING AMBASSADOR
"I think the term ambassador gets used just because you've been around for so long. It gets passed on from one generation to the next, and we're the older group that's here now along with Dale Jarrett and guys like that. I think your perspective on life changes. I think that's obvious to myself through the camp and some other stuff we have going on away from the racetrack. Racing is what we do. That's my life. That's what I've always done. That's what my grandfather and my father and Adam after me came along and did. Like I said before, it's a family business. This is what we do, and this is the core of what we do. I think we're blessed to be in this sport at a time when you can as you mature and as you get a little bit older, you can use this vehicle to other means. What I mean by this is like what Dale Jarrett does with some of his charity work and the camp and things like that. We're able to use it as a platform to not only do what we love to do, which is drive racecars, but to maybe make a broader impact on other people's lives and maybe on society in some ways. For me, the importance, and I think it shifts, but as you get older your family is a lot more important and what goes on away from the racetrack is just as important."
COMMENT ON IDEA OF NASCAR AS A DEMONSTRATION SPORT IN OLYMPICS
"In a lot of ways, as bizarre of things I do sometimes, I'm still a purist on some things. To me, the Olympics are what they are. They're gymnastics, track and field events, running and things like that. I think the more we get outside that realm the more we dilute some of that. Would it be cool to do the Olympics and have a motorsports category in the Olympics? Yeah, but I've got to admit that stock cars are probably not going to get it done for the Olympics because they don't run stock cars everywhere. They do run Formula One car and things like that. There's a lot of emphasis on the mechanical side of it. I know that stick and ball sports the athletes don't just use the stick and ball. They use a lot of other things, too, but I would hate to see our sport as it's grown to be a sport, be categorized as an exhibition sport. From that perspective, I'd just rather stay the way we are and sit at home and watch the Olympics on NBC."
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT YOUR FIRST START?
"I remember I didn't have a clue more than anything else. My first start, I went to Daytona and ran an ARCA race. Then I went to Charlotte and wrecked a car trying to practice, then I went to Daytona and wrecked a car trying to qualify, then went to Talladega. My first NASCAR (Cup) start was at Talladega. I'll never forget it. We ran unrestricted. I qualified like 18th or 19th and started right beside Bobby Allison and I thought, 'man, it doesn't get any better than this.' To be standing in the pits one week and to be out there driving against Bobby Allison and Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Darrell Waltrip, guys like that at 18 years old, it doesn't get any better than that. Then I realized it about 15 or 20 laps they lapped me the first time. That was pretty wild because I thought I was running as hard as I could go. I think I ended up finishing ninth or 10th in the race, but when the race was over with and I got out of the car, I was exhausted. Here comes my father and Cale and Baker and those guys and they're over 40 at the time and you'd think they hadn't been through nothing. I realize after all these years that Talladega was a simple place to drive. It wasn't that hard, but what I remember most was that a bunch of old guys spanked you really hard and they did it in a simple way. I thought it was pretty tough, but it wasn't as tough, looking back, as I thought it was."
COMMENT ON YOUR COUNTRY MUSIC CAREER
"I never stepped away. I was still driving the car when I was doing the music stuff, and I'll say the same thing today I said then. At the time, when I was doing the music stuff, I was driving the car for the Wood Brothers and that was my No. 1 job. I enjoy music. I still play the guitar and piano. I was playing at camp this morning as a matter of fact, so I still enjoy that, but the music was like a guy that goes and plays golf on the weekend or goes hunting and enjoys getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning and goes hunting like Earnhardt used to do and then coming to the racetrack at 7 or 8 o'clock and practicing and doing a day's work. It was an outlet, something to release the stress from, and that's kinda the way music was for me. I did it for a year and a half, two years and then one day I woke up and realized that if I didn't stop it was going to turn into another job and I really didn't want another job. I had the job I wanted to do and that was driving the racecar. I walked away from the music stuff, and I've been pretty much focused on the motorsports side ever since."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A PETTY?
v"I've never been anything else so I can't tell you. It's like the question, what's it like to have Richard Petty as a father? I don't know. He's the only father I've ever had. I thought I grew up with a normal life. Looking back and traveling around the country to racetracks every weekend, it's pretty abnormal really. I feel very blessed to have grown up in a family and to have had my father's guidance and my mother's and my grandparents'. The foundation they gave for us, not only for what we do on the racetrack.... Like I said before, driving a racecar is what we do. That's not who we are. Who we are is what goes on away from the racetrack, and I think what my father has done through the years with the fans and other areas of the sport has pretty much spoken for itself, and it's more important for me to be that kind of Petty than it is to be the one on the racetrack."
IS THE 700 MILESTONE IMPORTANT FOR YOU?
"I'm sure when I look back it will be. I didn't think 500 was going to be a big deal, but looking back 500 was a pretty cool deal. I was looking through some stuff the other day and when I was on this conference call I figured Ray had just run out of Dodge drivers to get on the conference call so he called me up. I didn't know it was my 700th start to be honest with you, but it will be pretty cool. Terry is at 800 plus and Ricky Rudd and those guys all started in '79 when I did. They've all been more successful and run a lot more races, but maybe sometime I can catch up to those guys."
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MOMENT IN RACING?
"The biggest moment for me is watching Adam race, bar none. Watching the tape of him winning his first ASA race and being at Charlotte when he won his ARCA race and just being with him when he ran his late model stockcar and stuff. For me all of that combined, just watching another career start was a big moment."
SHOULD ROAD COURSE RINGERS BE ALLOWED TO RUN?
"I think they should be allowed to come any time they want to come. I believe guys like Boris Said and Robby Gordon is a ringer, if you want to call them ringers, because he is incredible. I think Boris and Ron Fellows and Scott Pruett and guys like that make us better road racers. There are no if, ands and buts about it. They make you elevate your game to compete with them. We can talk points, and you look at it and say, is it bad for those guys to come in and take points? Yeah, in a lot of ways, it may be. Some teams probably look at it and complain about it and say yeah. But, it's just as bad to tow to California and run all the races like Kirk Shelmerdine and some of those guys did, and then bring ringers in at Indianapolis and take their place. Those guys have put on a show for NASCAR all year long. You can call them field fillers. You can call 'em whatever you want to, but they've been there week in and week out to help NASCAR put on a show. A couple of teams bring extra cars and extra drivers and they bring drivers from the outside like Leffler and guys like that. They have every right to be at Indianapolis, but at the same time, they knock some of those guys out and they take points away from those guys. Points are important to those guys and so is the monetary factor at places like Daytona and Indianapolis, so I think the way NASCAR is set up where it's open to anybody with a car and wants to drag it to the racetrack and pay the entry fee, and has a driver capable of coming out here and has a team capable of running, it ought to be open. I think that's what separates NASCAR and the way we run from a lot of other sports."
CAN TEAMMATE A HELP TEAMMATE B ON THE TRACK RUNNING FOR POINTS?
"You probably believe Elvis is still alive and the conspiracy with Kennedy, too. Anything is possible. You've got 43 cars running 200 mph and somebody is going to run into somebody at some point in time. Do I think I race against guys that would take other people out over the points? No, I don't believe that. I think the integrity of the Roush drivers or the Hendrick drivers and guys like that, I think those guys have enough integrity and respect the sport and the history of the sport not to cause that type of controversy. I don't look at it that way. We all have teammates, but this is not a team sport in that sense. This is not roller derby where one guy scores points and another guy is the blocker. It's not that type of sport. When that day comes when teammates start taking out other drivers, then I think the best thing for Petty Enterprises is to close its doors and go somewhere else because the best part of the sport has been lost."
IS IT IRONIC THAT YOUR 700TH START IS COMING ON A ROAD COURSE?
"I do enjoy road courses. I hated Sears Point this time because I had the flu while I was out there and all I could really do was ride around. I got food poisoning the Saturday night before the race, so I really was sick as a dog out there. This is really going to be my one and only road course race of the year as far as I'm concerned. I love Watkins Glen. I wish we had more road courses on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series. I love the Grand American Division. I'm trying to put together a team for next year to run some races and continue on down the road with that, but it is cool you hit one milestone at a place you actually enjoy. I could hit this milestone at Darlington, and I think everyone pretty much knows my reaction to Darlington. That's not my favorite place. It is nice to go to a place you enjoy running."
IS THE GRAND AM TEAM THE FIRST STEP FOR AN EXIT FROM NEXTEL CUP RACING?
"It's the first step toward branching out and trying to expand Petty Entereprises in some other areas beside NASCAR. We've had a Busch car and a truck and those are great divisions. The heart and soul of our business is the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, but with the Grand American Series and what they've done this year and over the last couple of years with the Daytona Prototype Series, and where road racing in America in general and especially sports car racing in America in general is right now, there's a strong growth potential with that series and especially the race tracks they run. Especially being a part of the NASCAR family and NASCAR community, I think that can grow into something. You can't alienate that part of the market. As far as sponsors and promotions and stuff like that, contrary to popular belief everybody in the world is not infatuated with cars going in circles. They like for them to go left and right sometimes, so we'd like to be a part of that from a promotional, marketing and racing standpoint."
COMMENT ON FUTURE OF SPORTS COMPACT RACING
"I think NASCAR started a program 20-30 years ago, and they called it the Baby Grand and then they called it the Goody's Dash and then they called it the Daytona Dash and now they call it something entirely different and it never caught on. The people that like NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing like to see big V-8s with a big throaty sound and they like to see those things running 200 mph doing what they do or 100 mph at Martinsville, whatever it might be. They like to see those things doing what they want to do. To try to change the formula we run right now or to branch off in a different direction, that might be somewhere down the road. It may be somewhere down the road with the bigger greenhouse car or fuel injection and some of the stuff they come with and the time they choose to come with it, but the formula we have now is pretty much a great formula and I don't think it should be changed that much."
Continued in part 2