KYLE PETTY (No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix): "I was never really employed (laughing). I do and I don't understand the new deal. I understand the concept of what they're trying to do. I think the concept of what they're trying to do,...
KYLE PETTY (No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix): "I was never really employed (laughing). I do and I don't understand the new deal. I understand the concept of what they're trying to do. I think the concept of what they're trying to do, let's say this, I hire you and you do a job for me and you take me from point A to point B. And you do a dang good job. But as you get from point A to point B, you're like me, you're a little hard-headed and you get set in your ways. When I give you some creative advice, you take it as interference. You don't take it too well. I've got an opportunity to wipe that slate clean and start all over and be able to give creative advice that the people are going to be able to take. I think with the NBC package and with the FOX package, they're not here, they haven't been here, so NASCAR can take and assemble a group of people and explain to them how things are done. 'We'd like to see this done on driver profiles.' 'This is a race format we'd like to see.'
Where I think in a lot of ways ESPN has been innovative, but they haven't had to be that innovative because by being the one of two games in town basically, you don't push yourself. I think NASCAR is trying to push it to another level. Realistically, I think that part of it is good. By NASCAR trying to bring it back they can have some continuity and bring the entire package back together. They can say, 'This is the way we want to present the sport.' By doing that they have more control of how they present the sport. They don't depend on ESPN to present the sport the way ESPN wants to present it because ESPN or ABC presents it more in the fashion of an X-Games or Wide World of Sports. It's almost a cookie-cutter type of deal, you know what I mean? They've got an opportunity to expand that thing."
WILL NASCAR GAINING MORE CONTROL WITH TV MEAN THE SPORT WILL LOSE MORE OF ITS PERSONALITIES?
"I don't know. Chances are things (like Petty confronting Bobby Hillin in a past Daytona 500) like that won't make a NASCAR highlight. Will it make an ESPN highlight? Yeah, if they're willing to pay NASCAR for the footage. If NASCAR controls it to the degree of NBC controls it or FOX controls it with NASCAR's permission, and they're partners in the deal, then if I'm TNN or CBS, then I've got to go buy footage from them and there's got to be a tag line 'Courtesy of NBC Sports' or FX or whatever. There's got to be that tag line.
If something happens and ESPN wants to buy it then they've got to either take a stance and censure the sport, which they'll be crucified if they do that or they've got to report it and they've got to sell it. They're forced into an issue. That almost becomes a non-issue because they'll be forced to confront it in some way, shape or form."
ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED ESPN WASN'T SHOWN MORE LOYALTY?
"For all the talk about this sport, there is no loyalty in this sport. Ya'll know it. Why do you even put up that facade that there is? There isn't any loyalty between owners and drivers. There isn't loyalty from crew members. I think the Rainbow Warrior crowd is a good example of people just picking up for another buck. This is the same thing. NASCAR just picked up for another buck. Do you fault them for it? No. They are in a business. In a lot of ways that's just the way businesses are run. Will it come back to bite them at some point in time? Maybe. The way the entertainment industry changes and the way you may tee somebody off at ABC and all of a sudden they end up at FOX five years later and you've got to negotiate with that guy you teed off five years ago, that's a tight-knit industry, too. So could it come back? I don't know, because I don't know anything about the negotiations or how they went down or anything like that.
As an athlete in the sport I'm a little bit disappointed that CBS and TNN and ESPN and ABC didn't get a part of it. Because from the camera guys that work up there to some of the announcers and stuff, everybody here has a relationship with some of them. You don't mind them knocking on the door and walking in here. You don't mind them coming up and saying, 'We want to talk.' There's a level of comfort there. There's a level of comfort there where you say, 'Well, I'll tell Mike something,' or 'I'll tell Kernan something,' or Weber something that I might not should tell them, but I tell them because I like them. If I step back and I look at the World Series and see that guy Jim Gray and he walks in, all of a sudden I've got a bad case of lock-jaw. I don't know this guy. I have no relationship with him. So as far as what's announced and how it's portrayed, it goes back to a real superficial deal. You're not going to get that personality type. It's not going to come through in an interview.
Who knows? Maybe NBC and FOX have to go out and hire a Benny Parsons or get a Ned Jarrett or get the same old crowd. If they do, fine. I look at that and say, 'That's good because it's good for us.' That's good for the people that participate in the sport. Then I put myself in the third row of the grandstands and I say, 'You know, to be honest with you, I'm about tired of seeing Kyle Petty and Benny Parsons and Jerry Punch and Ned Jarrett. I'd rather see some new blood.' I'm thinking, 'Now's my opportunity. I'm going to see some different people and I'm going to get a different prospective.' When I look at it that way, I say, 'OK, I understand that, too.' So I think there's pluses and I think there are minuses. I don't think there is a lot of either, but I think there are pluses and minuses. It's just going to be one of those things that you pitch out there and say, 'Let's see how it works.'
The scary part for a fan, and they'll work through it, but you've got to say, 'What is going to be FOX's first race?' The biggest race. The first race that they televise is the Daytona 500. When I look at that I say, 'That's like Richard Petty sending me to Daytona for the first time. What was he thinking?' It's the same type thing. You're sending people out there to do something and unless they reach back into that bag of people that have done it before, from the producers down to the cameramen like Corky. Corky is one of the camera guys for ESPN that walks up and down pit road. When I was doing pit reporting, he sees more than I see. He sees a story about a tire. He's really sharp. Do you give that up? That's something that adds to the total entertainment value of what we're doing. That's all we're talking about here."
HOW COULD THE NEW DEAL CHANGE RACING?
"This is not going to change what we do on the race track. It has the potential to change the length of the races. It has the potential to change time slots. It has the potential to change race lengths or whether it's a Sunday or Saturday race. If I'm FOX and I'm paying this much money, I'm going to want you guys to race on Saturday so I've got a raindate on Sunday that I can still program you on Sunday. It does have the potential to change that. As far as what we do in the garage area, the physical working on the race cars and the race that goes on on the race track, it's not going to change that for the fan. I don't think it will change any of that."
SURPRISED BY WHO GOT THE NEW DEAL?
"I was surprised when ABC or CBS wasn't one of the two. I assumed that ABC or CBS would be one of the two because you'd say, 'That's my safety net. Yeah, so this isn't working out with NBC or they're not up to par yet or FOX isn't up to part yet, but by the second half of the year you're going to love racing again. We won't be hearing those cries anymore.' It didn't shock me on the NBC deal. It did shock me more that FOX was able to come in and that ABC and CBS were out. That did shock me."
WOULD YOU WELCOME ANOTHER ANNOUNCING JOB FOR YOURSELF?
"I've been working for ESPN for almost 10 years. When I say I've worked for ESPN, I do some Busch races and do some truck races, but I'm fortunate and blessed right now that it's not my livelihood. It's not how I make a living. It's not a major deal to me. If I don't do 15 o 20 races a year, nobody's going to miss Kyle Petty in the booth. It's not a big deal. I like doing it.
But I'll say right now that the ESPN guys have been really, really good to me and the ABC people have been really good. They don't have it right now but they may have it again in 15 years, so maybe I can wait 15 years and do it again. Who knows? I just do year to year stuff with them (no long-term contract). Here was my approach with them: My deal was, 'I'll do it if you want me to, but don't let me knock Jon Kernan or Bill Weber or Benny Parsons or somebody out of a job. Once I find out that somebody's not doing it because Kyle's doing it, then I ain't gonna do it no more.' That's because it's not the way I make a living. I can just as easily sit here on my dead rear end and watch it on TV on Saturdays instead of going to the booth and watching it on a monitor and talking about it. It doesn't make any difference to me one way or the other. I enjoy doing it and you're able to see a lot more of the race because you've got so many more camera angles and there's so much more going on in the booth and it's pretty educational and pretty cool to do it really.
I don't want to knock somebody out of a job and that's always been my approach. I don't even go to production meetings. I can't even say I work for them. The race starts up at one and I show up at quarter till with a coat and tie on and do an opening and then we're into the show. It's just a fun thing to do. I think the more Darrell (Waltrip) has done it Darrell has gotten more and more into it. He's involved in it and he does it. Even though I've done it for 10 years I've always been at arms length with it. A lot of times I show up at the race track and I'm not sure whether I'm doing it or not. I keep a coat and tie hung in my locker there and they'll just come and say, 'We want you to do it this weekend' and I'm up there in the booth doing it. Or if they never come then I never go up there.'"