WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TEXAS? "It's a big state. I guess it's one of the biggest 58 states." OK. WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH 58 STATES? "I have never watched Friends. I've never watched that TV program. I was waiting on a basketball game to come on...
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TEXAS?
"It's a big state. I guess it's one of the biggest 58 states."
OK. WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH 58 STATES?
"I have never watched Friends. I've never watched that TV program. I was waiting on a basketball game to come on the other night and Friends was on. I don't even know the characters. One guy comes in and says we're going to play a game. You've got to name all the states in six minutes. He said any college educated person could do that. One girl tries it, and she gets 48 states in six minutes. He said that was pretty good because most people leave out four or five. He went to the next girl, and she says regular celery. She didn't know any of the states, so she just started naming different kind of celery. Regular celery was the only kind she knew. Then some other guy starts tapping his finger and says he won the state contest. He said he got all 58 of them. He said New England was a state because it had a football team. That made sense, but the guy couldn't figure out why he said South Oregon. So anyway, I guess Texas is one of the biggest 58 states, and one of the biggest 58 states is bound to have a good race track."
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY?
"I didn't make it at Texas last year. I've kind of struggled there. We ran good there the first couple of years, but it's not a bad race track. After the first year they fixed it. I think one thing you've got to throw in the equation this year from everywhere we've been is the new tire stuff. Race tracks that were single-groove tracks that were real hard to run two-wide on, like Las Vegas and some of those places where you didn't really make a lot of time running two or three wide, so far they've had some good races and a lot of it has to do with the tires as much as anything else. You won't know what kind of race it's going to be at Texas until they drop the green flag. "I think some teams got a pretty quick handle on the tires, and some teams are still struggling. Look at the Roush teams. I think they're still struggling with something, and you've got to say the tires are the biggest change they've had. I think Petty Enterprises as a group is fighting a lot of things. We're still working with the cars and the motors and trying to figure out the tires, too, and trying to get three teams up and running compared to two teams. I think there's a lot of stuff here we're still grappling with. I don't think there's anybody that's got a handle on it to say this is what we do every week. I don't think anybody is dead on it yet. ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE PROGRESS AT PETTY ENTERPRISES?
"You've got to look at the overall picture, and the overall picture still hasn't been good for us. To be honest, we went to Rockingham, and we had one car make the race, John Andretti. Buckshot used a provisional, and I didn't make the race. We went to Vegas, and we had no cars make the race. I went home, and John and Buckshot used provisionals. Technically they weren't in the race. We went to Atlanta, and the guys in the shop worked really hard on the cars and engine stuff. All three cars made the race at Atlanta, but we struggled in the race. We were all in the race at Darlington, and John ran really good. Buckshot ran good. Technically it was our (45 team) second race, and we're still struggling to find a balance on the car, from my perspective. No matter how much John and Buckshot tells me, you've got to go out and experience some of it yourself, so I'm still struggling a little bit with that. If we get to November and we're better in November than we were in January, then it was a good year for us. It means we've made improvements. If we get to November and we're still struggling and missing races, then we've wasted a year. "We struggled making races the first couple of races, so we had to go back to square one. You can't write a word until you learn your ABCs. We can't race until we get in the race, and we weren't getting in races. The 43 and 44 stayed in the races based on what they did last year. It had nothing to do with this year's performance. "I think we've made gains on it. We've made a concentrated effort. I think that's been positive for us. Last year we tried to make gains and we didn't make any. Even when we thought we'd made gains, we'd go to the race track and it wouldn't show up. I think this year it's been positive right off the bat. We were so bad when we got to Rockingham, and we've made gains since then. We are making races and qualifying a lot better. The last two races we qualified, the worst we've qualified was 21st at Bristol, but I ran a 15.38 and Buckshot ran a 15.46. That shows how close is it." HAS SWITCHING TO THE DODGE INTREPID PRESENTED PROBLEMS?
"For us, I don't think the Dodge has been a problem. I don't think the tire has been a problem. For us, it's the way we're approaching the organization as far as saying, one team, three cars. The way we're trying to streamline stuff and find some economy in using three teams. We changed everything. We took all our old Pontiacs and threw 'em away. Actually we sold them to the Driving Experience. They're in England now. From that perspective then, we've got a new car, a new engine, a new tire, a third team and a totally different way than we've ever raced before. From the guys back at the shop on what their jobs are, we've reorganized all that stuff. Everything straight across the board has been brand new. "Georgia Pacific is a brand new sponsor to Winston Cup. Sprint is a brand new sponsor to Winston Cup. They were in Busch. This is our first full year with Cheerios as the primary sponsor on the 43 car. We changed just about everything you can change except the color of the buildings. I don't think there's one thing we can look at and say it's a problem for us. I think it's all just getting into a flow and rhythm with things."
SOME JOURNALISTS SAY KYLE PETTY'S HEART ISN'T IN RACING. HOW DO YOU ADDRESS
"I don't care, and I don't mean this bad, but I don't care what those guys in the press room think about me. That's not what I'm here for. My job right now at Petty Enterprises is to bring Petty Enterprises back to be a competitive race team and to be a place where John Andretti wants to drive and Buckshot Jones wants to drive or Jeremy Mayfield or any other top driver wants to come drive for us. Roberts Yates told me he didn't need to get young drivers and bring them along. He said if he had a good enough team the experienced drivers would want to drive his car. That's where we've got to bring Petty Enterprises to, and that's what we're trying to do. Whether somebody thinks I've got my heart in racing or not, it doesn't make any difference. I'm off on a different focus and got something else going on. We're going to run these three teams and make these three teams competitive and make these three teams win races or we're not going to be where we need to be." ADAM PETTY MADE HIS FIRST WINSTON CUP START LAST YEAR AT TEXAS. WILL IT BE A STRUGGLE FOR YOU TO GO BACK AND RACE THERE?
"A struggle, no. Emotional, yeah, probably. I will say that. I don't think it's a struggle. A lot of times the struggle is just getting up in the morning. Once you get up and moving you're OK. It probably will be emotional in a lot of ways because that is the only Winston Cup race he ran. That was a place he tested and he ran good. I don't think we gave him the greatest car to run there, but he ran good. It will be emotional, but it won't be a struggle. I'm not worried about that. I don't know if you learn to deal with it, but you have to deal with it. I thought about it when I left the race track at Bristol on Friday. There's a big billboard across the street that's got the big No. 3 on it and says Dale Earnhardt. I thought, that's probably comforting for the fans in some way, but for Dale Jr. to ride by that every day, it's got to be incredibly hard for him, especially at this stage. It's nice. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying anything bad about it. It's a nice gesture by the fans or whoever put it up, but for Dale Jr. right now, it's got to be incredibly hard. I look at things like that probably a lot different. I probably wouldn't look at it that way if I hadn't gone through the same kind of stuff. I wouldn't have put myself in Dale Jr.'s place. I think you just deal with it. It's not that you learn to deal with it. You just end up having to deal with it. "I think about Adam all the time. I won't ever say I don't. I always felt like Adam had more talent in his little finger than I had in my whole body to be a race car driver. He was incredibly smart about a car, and he understood that. I think coming over here and working with these guys has made me a better race car driver, even though we haven't shown it. We had some good runs last year with the Busch car, and we had some good finishes. We weren't the best Busch car by any stretch, but I became a better race car driver the second half of last year than I was the first half of last year. I think when I looked at it like that, this is a good group of guys and a good team. That's the whole deal in my mind. If Adam were driving this car, would he be doing better than this or this good or where would he be? If we can win races with this team, then I know he would have won races with it. "With this car, all I need to do is win one race. I don't need to win a ton of races. All I need to do is take this car and run competitive week in and week out and win a race with it. We'll get there eventually. We're not going to get there in five races, that's obvious, but we'll get there eventually." WHAT KIND OF TIMETABLE ARE YOU ON?
"We'll be stronger the second half of the year. The approach we took, we laid out more of an 18-24 month plan instead of a six-month or one-year plan. We just want to be better at the end of the year than we are now. Like all of the Dodge teams, I think we've shown flashes that at least we can run competitive. I don't think we've run as good as the 40 team by any means. I don't think we've been as good as Bill Davis' teams. When you go back and look at it, Ray's stuff has come and gone. Our stuff has been down mostly, but it's beginning to turn around a little bit. Stacy's stuff has had flashes. We're not at the back of the pack, but we're not where we need to be yet, either." STERLING MARLIN'S TEAM HAS BEEN THE MOST CONSISTENT DODGE. DO YOU THINK THE 40 CAR CAN WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"Sterling's team has run really, really good and they've really not had any trouble. It depends on how they come back if they fall off a little bit. The one thing you've got to remember about all of the Dodge teams is everything we've got is brand new. When the stuff starts cycling and it goes through three or four races, what's your maintenance program? Do you have a good maintenance program? Is crap falling off your car the second half of the year that didn't fall off the first half? Are you beating yourself? Right now, it's impossible for the Dodge teams to beat themselves because everything they've got is brand new. You do beat yourself with little things, but the big stuff is not beating you right now. You're going to have to wait and see how Sterling's team goes on that before you'll know if they're going to contend for the title." RICHARD PETTY SAYS YOU'RE DOING A GREAT JOB AT PETTY ENTERPRISES. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
"I feel like I'm doing a job. I've got a vision of where Petty Enterprises is. I know where Petty Enterprises is. We're at the bottom of the rung. We were not a good Pontiac team. We were not going to switch from Pontiac to Dodge and go from a level 10 team to a level six team. We're still going to be a level 10 team. We were worse than what we thought we were. I think we were worse with the Pontiacs than I even thought we were. I was almost lulled to sleep with that. There's a group of people at Petty Enterprises that understand where we're at. We've got a good grasp of where we're at and a good grasp of where we want to be. There's a plan to get there, but it's a four or five-year plan. The thing is to stay on plan. We've been tempted to jump off the plan in the first five or six races when you start having trouble, but I think my job, more than anything, is to try to stay focused on where we are and where we want to be. When somebody in the group wants to go in another direction, I've got to say, no, you've got to go back over here. Maybe my job as much as anything is to be a sheepherder right now. Some days it's like herding cats because they're going in 900 different directions and we all are. As long as everybody believes in Petty Enterprises, and believes in the drivers and people who work there, and where we're going, then it makes my job a lot easier." TALK ABOUT ANDRETTI AND BUCKSHOT
"John is getting that confidence level where as a driver I believe he can win anywhere he goes as a driver. It's our job to give him a piece of equipment that can make him win everywhere he goes. It's just like going to Bristol. For John Andretti to go to Bristol and qualify 11th and finish second is huge. He hates Bristol, and he's talked himself into liking it. He went up there and tested and did all the stuff and made a big effort to do good. Personality wise, he's a changed person. He's really confident as a driver right now. That's big, but we've got to be able to give him something to keep his confidence up. I don't think that's a game face. In his heart and in his mind, John feels like he can win anywhere now. "Buckshot on the other hand has the attitude that he just wants to learn. I've been really surprised with him. His whole goal is to just learn as much as he can. He's really taken to John. He and John really work well together, so that's been good for us. My job is to keep everybody headed in the right direction." DOES THAT TAKE ANYTHING AWAY FROM YOUR DRIVING?
"You'd like to think that doesn't take anything away from your driving. I think I'm more focused now on driving than I was last year. I will say that. To put me on a scale of where John is or Dale Jarrett is or where those guys are on their total focus of just showing up at the race track with a helmet and driving the race car and going home and not having to