Note: Pontiac Grand Prix driver Kyle Petty is back home at Petty Enterprises this season with a new crew chief, Doug Hewitt. After eight starts, Petty has had an up-and-down season. He's registered three top-10 runs, but has failed to make two...
Note: Pontiac Grand Prix driver Kyle Petty is back home at Petty Enterprises this season with a new crew chief, Doug Hewitt. After eight starts, Petty has had an up-and-down season. He's registered three top-10 runs, but has failed to make two races. Petty talks about his season so far and chances at Talladega, where a recent test mirrored his roller-coaster season so far: Petty had one of the fastest cars at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, but crashed the Grand Prix he finished seventh in at Daytona.
KYLE PETTY (No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix): "I think we were surprised that we missed a couple of races. I think when we sat down and talked about why we missed the races, we weren't surprised. You work yourself into a hole you shouldn't make a race. If you're going to be on this level, in Winston Cup, and you have every piece of the team, a car, the driver, crew chief, the team, the owners, everybody has to perform at a Winston Cup level. We started a brand new team with a lot of people that had never worked together. We took those people and tried to make them work inside our system, which is a system they've never worked in before, too. At the same time you're trying to compete, you're trying to teach and train and trying to get everybody headed in the right direction. We were trying too much stuff at too quick a pace. We worked ourselves into a hole at Vegas, and we were still in a hole because we blew up at Rockingham and were the first car out. We blew up at Atlanta and were the first car out. Out of eight races, we've been the first car out of the first car in line that didn't make the race four times. You work yourself into a hole and that shouldn't surprise you."
YOU AND DOUG HEWITT HAVE TO BE RACING'S 'ODD COUPLE.' YOU'RE AS EXTROVERTED AS THEY GET, AND DOUG IS INTROVERTED. HOW ARE THINGS GOING THERE? "Things are going really good with Doug. Real good. He's real quiet and I'm anything but quiet. But when it comes to what has to go on the car he's not quiet. That's good. He knows what he's looking for and makes suggestions. I give suggestions and everybody talks abut it. He's good on that part of it. He may not sit around and talk about basketball scores and the crisis in Kosovo, but he'll talk about what he needs to talk about. We've worked real well together. That's not a problem for us. That's not been a factor that has hurt us this season."
YOU DON'T MAKE TWO RACES, BUT YOU HAVE TWO TOP-10s. IS THIS A REAL HIT OR MISS SEASON SO FAR? "We were OK at Daytona and we felt like we were good at Rockingham. We felt like we had a good car at Atlanta and blew up. We just never got going at Vegas and Texas. We went to Bristol and qualified OK and ran good. Martinsville was good. It's one of those deals where we're at the stage where when we're right we're OK, but when we're wrong we're just a little bit off. Look at the 30 team and some of these other teams that have missed races. It's not like they've missed races by six tenths. They've missed them by thousandths. That's how close it is. If you're just a little bit off and you're on the borderline edge like we are, then it kills you."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PROVISIONAL PROGRAM AND SECOND ROUND QUALIFYING? "There's nothing they can do about it. That's the way it should be. If you don't run fast enough you should go home. I'm a firm believer in the provisional system because the provisional system rewards the teams that run all the races and run competitive and put on a show week in and week out. It makes you strive to get to that point where you can be rewarded. When you look at it like that, then the provisional system is good. If you don't run fast enough, you ought to go home. I don't want to run in a race where the leader runs 96 mph and they let somebody in the race just because he showed up at 80 mph. I don't think much about the inequities of second round qualifying versus first. I don't look at it as the qualifying system being broke. It's always been that way. If I'm going to change the qualifying system, I'm going to change the point system, I'm going to change the scoring system, a number of things. There's a lot of things they've done forever which you say you may want to change. I like being able to stand on your time from the day before. I've been around here long enough to see people go out in second round qualifying and leave plug wires off, cut a tire leaving pit road and it kills them. The simplest thing to do is say 'qualify in the top 25.' Now here's a pot calling the kettle black because I very rarely qualify in the top 25. We're looking at a minority of people that are having problems. The total field is not having problems with qualifying being setup the way it is. There are only five or six of us that fall into that group. I'm probably going to be the only one in that group of five or six that votes to keep it the way it is if anybody's listening."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT DRIVERS SUCH AS YOU, EARNHARDT AND DARRELL WALTRIP THAT HAVE SUCH DIFFICULTY QUALIFYING NOW? "I don't think it's the fact we're shy because we've taken some hard hits. Things constantly change. The tires change, the cars change, the technology changes. Our experience on running fast and how we started to drive was in a different kind of car with a different kind of tire and a different kind of engine and a different type of horsepower and different type of torque. You went through stages where you were Jack the Bear where you could qualify. There was something in your experience that matches up. Then you get to a stage where you're junk again. I don't think it has anything to do with hitting walls. If you look at the guys that aren't making races, you can go from Buckshot Jones who's a rookie and fearless -- and everybody knows he's fearless -- to guys like Darrell and me and Earnhardt that have been around a long time that are struggling."
ARE YOU ABLE TO FOCUS MORE ON RACING NOW THAT YOU'RE BACK HOME AT PETTY ENTERPRISES? "I don't know. It's been easier because Robbie Loomis is the general manager and he looks over everything at the shop and Doug is the crew chief and he looks after everything with my specific car. It's been a lot easier from that perspective. But now I've got a Busch team and we've got two Winston Cup teams that everybody is kind of looking after instead of one. We've got a truck team that you worry about and you're concerned about. The business part of it, even though I only own one team, the business part of it is expanded two or three fold. That's part has gotten bigger for me, but the distractions have probably gotten a little bit smaller."
HOW BIG A THRILL IS IT FOR YOU TO HELP GUIDE YOUR SON ADAM'S CAREER? "I like hanging out with Adam and that crowd because they've got a fresh look on things. People like talking to Tony Stewart because this is all new to him. Anytime you talk to someone new, you get a brand new outlook, a new opinion, a fresh look. You go and hang out with Adam and his crowd and they've got that different outlook. I say when we go to Darlington that it's a hole in the wall. They love it because it's a brand new track that they've never been to before. It's two ends of the spectrum. Talk about Doug and I being two ends of the spectrum, I think that gives you two ends of the spectrum. That part has been pretty fun."
YOU HAD A GREAT TEST AT TALLADEGA UNTIL YOUR FREAK CRASH. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHANCES RUNNING THE SAME GRAND PRIX THERE? "We had a really good test. Hopefully, when we go back our Grand Prix will be just as good. We feel like it will be better, as a matter of fact. There are some things we're going to change on it that we weren't going to change because it was OK, but now we've got to change it because we wrecked it. I think we'll have a better Pontiac. We ran good at Daytona and felt like we had two good cars at Daytona (the 44 and 43). John got in a wreck in the 125 and then broke early and you never really got a chance to see what he had. If he and I can hook up and run the same speeds we were running in testing, then we should be all right. That's our main deal, we want two cars in the top-10 down there."