Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, April 5 Bristol Recap, Martinsville Advance KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge Charger) YOU GOT YOUR TOP 10 AT BRISTOL. WHEN CAN YOU WIN? "This is Nextel Cup racing, and nothing ...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, April 5
Bristol Recap, Martinsville Advance
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge Charger)
YOU GOT YOUR TOP 10 AT BRISTOL. WHEN CAN YOU WIN?
"This is Nextel Cup racing, and nothing surprises you any more in Cup races. If we won a race it'd probably surprise some people, but I wouldn't be surprised because you never know what's going to happen. To be there on a consistent basis is what we're looking for. Looking at Petty Enterprises, Bobby Hamilton won a race and John (Andretti) won a race there in the last five or six years or eight or 10 years or whatever, but consistency wasn't there and that's what we're shooting for. Even though we had a top-10 finish, realistically we're smart enough to look at it and say we probably had a top-15 car. We were just very blessed that when things started falling apart for other people we were able to run good enough to pick up the slack. We're not reading any more into a top 10 than what you can, but I think qualifying-wise to see Jeff come there and qualify sixth in the Cheerios Dodge Charger, I think that's a good sign because when you watch guys start to win again they start to qualify well again, and I think that's a big thing."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE ALL THE PIECES ARE IN PLACE?
"I feel like we've got a lot of the right pieces and a lot of the pieces we have we've got to continue to make stronger. We've said that all along. For five years I've said the same thing. We've got to get better, better, better no matter what we're doing, whether it's our aero program or our engine program. I think the work we did with Dodge this winter, working with Ray's group on the Dodge Charger and be able to have Evernham Motorsports engines, that's basically a good baseline for us. We can look at the 9 and 19 and if they run well and we don't run well, then obviously that means our cars have to get better and our teams have to get better. We feel like our aero program and our guys in the fab shop have done a tremendous job. I said at Daytona when we qualified well we felt like the guys in the fab shop and our aero stuff was pretty good. We just hadn't had any been able to prove it to any people. We went down there and qualified pretty good so it showed that was there. We have to work on other areas. We feel like we've got most of the bases covered. I won't say we've got every base covered, but we've got somebody standing on every base and we've just got to make sure we get more people on those bases and get stronger in those areas."
FROM A CAR OWNER'S STANDPOINT, IS THERE ANY WAY TO COME OUT OF BRISTOL WITHOUT TEARING UP CARS?
"I don't mind going to Bristol. I don't like tearing up my stuff at Daytona and Talladega. If you look at cars coming out of Daytona and Talladega, they look a lot worse than they do coming out of Bristol from a car owner's perspective. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on making sure our drag numbers are right, that we've got great cars and great chassis. We go to Daytona with a car that's been in the wind tunnel maybe six times that costs you 10 or 15 thousand dollars a shift in the wind tunnel and the first thing you do somebody goes out there and bump drafts you and tears the rear end off of it or tears the side off. I don't mind tearing up cars at Bristol. Nobody likes tearing up cars from that perspective, but that's part of what racing is. That's part of what Cup racing is and it always has been. The problem is it hasn't always been that way at Daytona and Talladega. I have a bigger issue from an expense standpoint tearing up stuff at Daytona and Talladega than I do at Bristol."
HOW MUCH CREDIT DOES PAUL ANDREWS GET FOR THE TEAM'S SUCCESS?
"Paul has not done anything from a day-to-day standpoint. I would not put that load on anybody, believe me, especially bringing in somebody like Paul. What Paul has done, he's brought stability to the 45 team and that's bled over and helped Greg Steadman who was running the 45 team. I think that's helped him focus on the 43 Cheerios Dodge Charger instead of having to worry about the Brawny Dodge, too. Just like I said when we hired Paul, we went through two or three different guys. I think Steve Lane is a great example of somebody who can be a great crew chief some day. He's over at Ganassi's right now. Where we're at as a team and where we're at as an organization, we just didn't have time for somebody to come up through the ranks. We had to hire somebody this time, we'd tried it two or three times, we had to hire somebody this time who had the experience and who had the know how and had the ability to come in and run the operation from pit road. From calling pit stops and pit strategy, Paul fit the bill perfectly. I think he takes a lot of pressure off Greg, and that helps everybody at Petty Enterprises."
COMMENT ON THE DODGE CHARGER NOSE
"There are issues with the Dodge nose. There are issues not from a heating-cooling standpoint just to out running. That's not the issue. The problem is when you put 100,000-150,000 people in the grandstand and a bunch of people in the infield, the racetrack is going to get dirty and there's going to be a lot of trash on the racetrack. I know at California we absolutely struggled with overheating. We were hot the whole time. We pulled all our tape off, but you pull all your tape off and the next thing you do is catch a hot dog wrapper or a potato chip bag, and that's the problem with the nose from our standpoint. It has nothing to do with the aerodynamics really. I think if you talk to the people, nobody has a problem with it aerodynamically. It's just when we really sit down and the Dodge people really sat down and tried to design the Charger, they wanted the Dodge to be a car the fans could look at and say, 'hey, there goes a Dodge Charger.' That's what that grille does for us. It says, 'there goes a Dodge Charger.' I guess part of the price we're having to pay now is from a heating standpoint. We're having to be really careful and watch the grille and keep the grille clean. We don't want cookie cutter cars. We don't want the Dodge Charger to look like a Ford or Chevy. We want it to look like the Dodge Charger. That's the price we're paying right now. We're going to have to figure out a way to make it work. If NASCAR does step in and give us some help, it would be greatly appreciated. If they don't, then we're just going to have to figure it out ourselves."
PERSONALLY, HOW DID IT FEEL GETTING A TOP 10 FINISH AT BRISTOL?
"For me it was really.good. We probably had a top 15 car, and I was ecstatic about having a top 15 car at Bristol just staying out of trouble all day. To come home and finish in the top 10, it's been five or six years or whatever since I've been able to run in the top 10 it seems like. We struggled. It's well documented. You guys write about it a lot. I don't know why. For us it's a huge morale booster. Our guys were sky-high when we went out of there, and the Cheerios Dodge had qualified in the top 10. I can't tell you how big a morale booster that was for both teams and the guys at Petty Enteprises. To leave the racetrack on Sunday, it was huge for me personally, but for the guys at the shop, it was big for all of us."
COMMENT ON ALL THE CAUTION FLAG LAPS SO FAR THIS SEASON
"You're saying it's up this year from last year? OK, was it up last year from the year before? I guess that's the way I'd have to look at it. I'd venture to say it's a little cyclical. I think some of the things that happened at Bristol were just impatience. People were trying to give each other room, but it's a small racetrack and you think you've got to make things happen in the first 15 laps of a race or you're going to get lapped. There was a lot of impatience the first two or three cautions at Bristol. I just marked that down to that, but I'd say it's more cyclical. I would not step back at this point in time and say it's all about the spoilers, it's all about the tires, it's all about this or that. I think right now everybody is running hard and everybody knows they've got to run hard and there's just stuff happening right now. If you go back two or three years, it probably all averages out."
DO YOU KEEP A SCORECARD FOR THE SHORT TRACKS?
"No. You'd have to be crazy to get into something with somebody at Bristol and then go to Martinsville the next week and do something to them. That's wrong. You'd need to have an IQ check or something. I'm sure NASCAR is looking and they're going to be keeping tabs, but if you look at the big picture, and I watched some of the Busch stuff yesterday with Dale Jarrett and Shane. Dale is a good enough guy with a cool enough head, I'll bet if you ask Dale about it today he's probably about half forgotten about it. It's just a heat of the moment type stuff. I don't think you're going to get into any of that. I don't think you're going to get into any retaliation. I do think it's strange we run Bristol and Martinsville back-to-back, two of the racetracks where tempers seem to flare the most. I don't think you're going to have to worry about it. As a driver racing against other guys I'm not going to worry about it."
ARE MORE DRIVERS MAKING MORE AGGRESSIVE MOVES THAN THEY DID 15 YEARS AGO?
"Yes, but 15 years ago they made more aggressive moves than they did 15 years before that. I think the whole sport itself has changed. We can go all the way back to the question that was asked about tearing up cars at Bristol. Talked to Pearson or my father or Cale or Allison and those guys. I think guys respected their equipment a lot more and they respected other people's equipment a lot more. You just get people that ran over each or were incredibly aggressive. Now, having said that, you've got to remember at that point in time everybody just had one car. It wasn't like everybody had a fleet of 15 or 20 cars sitting back at the shop that they could just trash one and go get another car. That wasn't the way racing was. I think as racing has changed, there is aggression, but that's what racing is all about. There's got to be some aggression out there. When you drive on the highway you drive defensively. When you drive on the racetrack, you drive offensively. I think there needs to be some controlled aggression and sometimes it seems to be a little out of control, but I just think it goes back in a lot of cases to respecting the other guy's equipment and what he can do, not ability-wise. It's never a case of ability, but it's a case of respecting the other guy's face and sometimes you don't get that. We could sit and talk this question until we're blue in the face because so many factors that go into it -- the speeds we run now, the type of racetracks compared to Rockingham and Darlington and places like that with multi-groove racetracks where you could run high and low. The tires are getting better and the aero is getting better. As far as that goes, there were 10 teams and now there's a lot of teams that show up and can run within four tenths of each other. We can throw age into the mix.We can throw old drivers and young drivers on the racetrack at the same time. I think we can keep adding on things that are factors that factor in to it, but I don't think you can look at one thing. I think it's where the sport is at this point in time."
WHAT'S THE MOOD AT THE SHOP?
"I think everybody at the shop has been walking a little bit taller, but I think we have been since the beginning of the year. I go back to Daytona. Being able to work closer with Dodge over the winter and all the Dodge engineers out of Detroit, Ted Flack and all those guys, to be able to re-engage ourselves with the Dodge factory from an aero standpoint. Then to have Ray and his group be able to come down and point us in the right direction and have Paul come on board. The Evernham engines, there were a lot of things we thought were going to be a plus. We went into Daytona with a little higher spirits. Then we kinda fell on our face in Atlanta and that was a big race for us, but the big thing for us was to be so bad at Atlanta and then come to Bristol and have one car qualify in the top 10 and have another car finish in the top 10, I think that showed we can recover from some of this bad stuff. We just need to keep getting stronger and stronger. I think it shows it's a strong team and morale wise, it's as high as it's been in a long time."
ARE YOU ASKING NASCAR FOR HELP FOR THE CHARGER?
"From my understanding, I don't know of anybody that's gone to NASCAR and said, 'give us some relief on this nose.' I do not know that. I have not been a part of that and would not expect to be a part of that until it came out of Detroit or somewhere else. The Dodge Charger was designed so the guy sitting in the third row in the grandstands could say, 'hey, there goes Ryan Newman in a Dodge Charger' or 'there goes Rusty Wallace in a Dodge Charger.' Not to have to squint real hard and ask if it's a Ford or Chevy. What is that thing down there? That's kinda the way a lot of the cars look right now. When you look at them I think the brands have kinda lost their identity, and I think Dodge has done a tremendous job of getting their identity back. I don't think anybody has gone and said, 'hey we want a different nose.' You just have to throw it out there and say it has been a problem for us and it's been winter. It's not summer yet, but these things are getting ready to overheat and if that happens you might want to look our way."
COMMENT ON SIGNING BY THE DRIVERS ON THE TRACK
"There's a lot of signing going on in these cars. It just so happens that a lot of them don't have in-car cameras. When the soldiers went to Iraq, every unit had a reporter with them. Maybe we'd be better to have a team reporter that rode in the car with us and could write down everything and report it the way they see it. Let me tell you something. When you're sitting in that car and somebody runs over you or you get mad at somebody, you see it totally different than sitting in the grandstands or sitting in the press box. If Shane flipped somebody off or if Dale Jarrett came to the window and had something to say to him, they had a reason to do that. It wasn't just out of the blue. It wasn't just all of a sudden somebody decided they wanted to go and do something. They had a reason to do that. From a penalty standpoint, I'm sure if they penalize for verbalizing it, they've got to penalize us for sign language too at some point in time. If you look at it like that, I'm sure they'll probably do something, but I don't think he should get too much heat for it. That's a little juvenile if you ask me when you start complaining about stuff like that."
WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON MARTINSVILLE'S FUTURE?
"I don't see right now why it would change a lot. If you look at it we have two Bristols and two Martinsvilles and those are our four half-mile tracks. We have two Daytonas and two Talladegas and those are our two two-and-a-half mile tracks. When you look at things like that, the schedule seems to be pretty well balanced. It seems to draw real good as they continue to build new grandstands. It draws a lot of people from West Virginia, and there's not a hotter racing area in the country than Virginia from a fan base. Everybody in the state of Virginia pulls for somebody on the Cup circuit. I think when you look at it like that, then it's a good place to be. It depends on what they do with other racetracks. I think as they begin to look at the Northwest or New York City or other venues, then they'll have to go back and address a lot of other racetracks, but I don't think Martinsville is in any more danger of losing a second event than a lot of other racetracks. I think since NASCAR has really come in and taken over and started to run the place, I would say their position is probably safer now than it has been."
OVER THE YEARS WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE CHANGE FOR NASCAR?
"Probably the biggest change both positively and negatively has been the popularity. Obviously you look at the popularity of the sport and you say, 'man, that's a huge positive.' You look at the TV ratings and the amount of fans, corporate sponsors that come into the sport and are able to be a part of the sport like Coca-Cola, Dodge, Georgia-Pacific, General Mills, I can name all my sponsors. You look at Home Depot and so many different sponsors of so many different products from all over the country and it's grown by leaps and bounds. That's been the biggest change, going from 50,000 people at a racetrack to 150,000 or 200,000 people and the corporate involvement in the sport. That's probably been the biggest change for the last 20 or 25 years.
"At the same time, it's a negative because it's changed a lot of the sport. I think we bill ourselves as a sport that's extremely fan friendly and fan accessible and as we get more fans coming to the racetrack, it seems like we withdraw into our cocoon which is the garage area and the bus lot where drivers can get away from the fans and get away from people because there are so many people at the racetrack. It seems like you're in a mass of humanity all the time. I think from that respect, from our side, it's kind of taken the sport and made it more of a closed area and it's become more of a business than a sport because of the money and because of the things involved. The popularity is a double-edged sword. It can go both ways."
ARE YOU NOTICING A LACK OF RESPECT FROM THE YOUNG GUNS TOWARD THE VETERANS AT THE TRACK?
"Not really, I don't think so. Let me say this about Shane (Hmiel). If anybody has a history of the sport it's Shane Hmiel, growing up with (father) Steve. Steve working with Richie Evans, the great modified driver for so many years and then coming to Petty Enterprises and working with my father and Dale Inman. Shane was born there. I was in Steve's wedding and around when Shane was born, so if you say Shane has no respect for the veterans, that's dead, 180 degrees wrong. He respects the sport as much or more and probably understands the history of the sport as much or more than other people. When you talk about an isolated incident, if there's 500 laps at Bristol, it (flipping the finger) goes on for 500 laps. It may not be the same driver all the time, but it happens all the time. I think that's a two-way street. I think we as veteran drivers have to respect the talent and ability of these kids that come in and jump in really good cars and run good right off the bat. You watch Reed Sorenson, Kasey Kahne, Casey Mears, you look at these guys and they're great racecar drivers already at 20 years and 19. They're phenomenal talents right off the bat, and you've got to respect that talent. I think from our standpoint it's two-way street. It's a give and take. If we expect them to respect us, then we've got to respect them. If they're running good we've got to give them a little ground. If we're running good you expect for them to give you a little bit of ground. From this standpoint I think we're jumping on a dead bandwagon here. I don't think we need to jump on Shane too hard for this because that could just have easily been any other driver that's out there right now. We could be having this same conversation about Kyle Petty or Bill Elliott or Ricky Rudd if I had gotten into it with a veteran driver or a young driver or whoever else, so I think it's almost a non-issue."