Loudon: Richard Petty - Dodge Saturday interview

RICHARD PETTY (Co-owner, Richard Petty Motorsports) TALK ABOUT RPM'S WIN LAST WEEKEND AT INFINEON? "Our big deal now is trying to finish up here (at New Hampshire) from what they started last week. We had three cars in the top 10, that's the...

RICHARD PETTY (Co-owner, Richard Petty Motorsports)

TALK ABOUT RPM'S WIN LAST WEEKEND AT INFINEON? "Our big deal now is trying to finish up here (at New Hampshire) from what they started last week. We had three cars in the top 10, that's the first time that's happened since Daytona. So maybe we've got a little momentum going. Things are getting better. I know that practice was pretty good. We didn't get to qualify, but we felt that we were in pretty good shape.

"The biggest thing on my end of the deal is that we're getting ready to go to Daytona (for the Coke Zero 400). That (Daytona) was the last time I won a race. That was a really, really big deal 25 years ago. We're really looking forward to that deal. I think (NASCAR) is going to let me run around in front of them for one or two laps. The guys told me that they weren't going to put much gas in the car because if I got out there, I'd get the racing bug and stay out there. We're really looking forward to that deal. We're looking forward to the 25th (anniversary of Petty's 200TH career win); that was a big deal for the Petty people for sure. I think that it was big for Daytona and big for NASCAR because as everyone knows, the President (Ronald Reagan) was there. We got him on the sports page and he got us on the front page, a pretty good trade-off."

TALK ABOUT THIS WEEK AND ALL THE CONGRATULATIONS YOU'VE RECEIVED FOLLOWING KASEY'S WIN LAST WEEKED AT INFINEON? "Yeah, no matter where we went, if we went out and eat or down the road to the service station or at the race track, I guess I didn't realize that it was spread that much. Monday, I think we just took the phone of the hook. Everybody was just calling and saying congratulations as if I'd done something (laughs). The crew has been working at it, they've been close. Sunday they just put it all together for a couple, three of our teams, so it wasn't anything that I did different last week than what I'd been doing. I'm just keeping the bills paid."

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE NASCAR FAN BASE CHANGE OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR CAREER? "The fan base has gotten younger (smiles). All the crowd that came through with me now has grandsons and sons, so we have to play the game a little bit different than what we did 10, 15, 20 years ago because society is dictating to us that they want to see something different. In doing that, it makes it really tough from NASCAR's standpoint and our standpoint; what is the fan really looking for? Do they want the drivers to stand there and take pictures and sign autographs or do they want to see a good race or do they want to make a combination of it all. As I've said before, the deal with our fans is that we are so transit. Our business is very transit from the standpoint that we have our little circus and we move around the tracks, that's OK. We've been doing that and we'll continue to do that. The fans, maybe they can afford a $50 ticket or $100 ticket, but you have to figure that those guys are coming from 200, 300, 400 miles away. They're going to spend a night or two. They have to buy fuel. They have to buy food. They have to buy motel rooms, all that stuff has gone up. People don't have the disposal income that we had last year or the year before last. It's not that we've lost the fan base. What we've lost is the fans not being able to come to the races because of the expenses. We can't overcome that. We can continue to do things, get better with signing autographs and thanking the fans and all that. They still have to come up with the buck out of their back pocket. We can't help them with that. When things settle down, we'll see what happens."

WHAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK BACK TO YOUR 200TH WIN AT DAYTONA 25 YEARS AGO? "I've been real fortunate. That was one of the most magical days in Richard Petty's life and the Petty family and in racing. I think that everybody from (President) Reagan on gained on that deal. I think Reagan maybe got a few more votes because he was running for President, but July the 4th, a picnic, the whole deal, it couldn't have been a better script to come out on our side. I think it was really a super deal for racing because the President was there. He was the cake and when I won the 200th (race) that was the icing."

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE STATE OF SHORT-TRACK RACING TODAY AND IT'S AFFECT ON NASCAR'S TOP SERIES? "I think that you need the short tracks to generate the interest of what we do. You've got to have strong fans and I think that a lot of times you've got local people and they can't go 200, 300 miles to see a Cup race. They can go out on Saturday night and kind of wet their appetite. We've got to continue to do that in order to keep the fans. I'm looking at the ways that the drivers are coming in today. They're really not coming in on the Saturday night show deal like they use to when I came along. You had to prove yourself Saturday night before you came Sunday. These guys are coming from Indy cars, Sprint cars, Midgets, road racing... we've got a different time in our life here. It's a different society. People are looking at us differently. I think over a period of time, the guys had to work their way up through Saturday night deals. We had to have the Saturday night deals. We still need the Saturday night deal, not for the drivers, but for the fans. We need to continue to support that all the way through NASCAR, even us as the Cup crowd. A lot of our guys go Saturday night and make appearances or run two or three laps. We have to keep that interest up."

TALK ABOUT HOW YOU WOULD WANT YOUR DRIVERS TO RUN AT LOUDON TOMORROW? "I want them to outrun everybody (laughs). Really, even though this is a mile track, it's a short-track. There's a lot of side-by-side, a lot of give-and-take and the big deal is that we (NASCAR qualifying cancelled due to rain) didn't get to qualify. All of our cars are starting from 13th on back. That gives us a great disadvantage because you have the better cars up front and we didn't get a chance to get up there. You've got the 14, 48, 24 they're up front and they're the ones that you have to beat anyway. What we're gonna have to tell our drivers is that they're gonna have to be patient. Even after practice, they had good times, but they have 20 cars to go through to get to the front and really show what they got. It's gonna take a little time just to work your way through the system. The main deal here whether you're starting in the back or up front, is patience. This is a very, very, tight race track and just one little mistake can wipe out three or four cars."

WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO THE COT TO MAKE IT BETTER? "I'd do nothing with it. There's nothing wrong with the race cars. If you go back to last year, year before last with the cars of the past, the racing today is just as good or better then what it was then. There's two or three races we've run this year that somebody's got ahead and just went on. You go back with the cars last year, two or three year ago, it's always been that way. What you need to do is go back three or four years and go with what we have known and overlay one race against the other race and you're going to find out that there's nothing the matter with the race cars. I told these guys that if these cars were perfect and they drove like they want to, I'd still be driving. But they're not, that's why we have drivers. They have to figure that out. They have to learn how to do that. They have to learn to put on a race. So, I don't know if there's anything the matter with the car. I've never drove one (COT). I've seen a lot of good races this year. Maybe it's not for first or second (place), I look at the whole race and the guys that are running 10th, 15th or 20th. There's some good racing going on at every race track that you go to. There's some racing going on every cotton-picking lap. I don't know what people are complaining about the car of the future. From the fan's standpoint, what do they want? Do they want 43 cars running side-by-side all along the race track for 500 miles? I don't know what they're looking for and from the owner's standpoint and watching the races and stuff; I think they (the drivers) do good. I wouldn't change nothing."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Richard Petty
Teams Richard Petty Motorsports