Petty juggles multiple roles By Marty Smith RANDLEMAN, N.C. (Jan. 26, 2000) If you lack physical stamina, it would be in your best interest to steer clear of Kyle Petty. His daily routine is not for the faint-hearted, the meek-natured or the...
Petty juggles multiple roles By Marty Smith
RANDLEMAN, N.C. (Jan. 26, 2000) If you lack physical stamina, it would be in your best interest to steer clear of Kyle Petty. His daily routine is not for the faint-hearted, the meek-natured or the introverted. In fact, Petty may be the only person who could tolerate such a mammoth load.
"How am I going to juggle it? I don't have a clue," said Petty, who now must take an even more active role in Petty Enterprises after the departure of Robbie Loomis to Hendrick Motorsports' No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet. "I had a hard enough time last year to be honest with you trying to juggle Adam's stuff and get his team up and running. Now we've moved his team over to closer to where we're at.
"Most mornings I get up at 6:30 or 7:00, I swing by the truck shop for about 1-1/2 hours, swing by Adam's (his son, who drives in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division) shop for about an hour and then I'm at Petty Enterprises until 6 or 7 at night. I'm the first to admit that I can't keep that pace up. I don't know of many people that can."
Aside from his duties as a businessman, Petty must also concentrate on driving the No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac, a car he has struggled with since he first cranked it in 1997. During his three seasons in the No. 44, Petty has just two top-5s -- both in '97 -- and 18 top-10s. In 1999, he finished 26th in the points, four positions better than in '98, but a far cry from the 15th-place outing he posted in '97 and the back-to-back top-5 finishes he notched with Team SABCO in 1992 and '93.
In 2000, Petty hopes to reverse his fortunes and halt the recent slip into mediocrity, relying on a proven Pontiac body style that lifted Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart to the top of the sport in 1999.
"I think the (Pontiac) teams have an advantage just from the fact that they know what the Pontiac car is, because the Pontiac car doesn't change," Petty said. "Where these guys are starting in with the Ford, each car has its own characteristics and you learn them and begin to understand the car after you run a few races with it. Not instantly -- it's like switching to a new team. It takes you a while to get used to it. Strictly from the perspective of knowing your car, then I think the Pontiac teams do have a little advantage."
And while the Pontiac is certainly an ample ride, Petty is rumored to be one of DaimlerChrysler's leading choices to drive its Dodge Intrepids in 2001. The reasoning is obvious -- his father had a fruitful association with Dodge in the past, he has a friendly, outgoing demeanor, he spearheads countless efforts to help others and sports a gargantuan fan base.
For now though, he adamantly declines discussing the matter.
"For the final time, we are talking to Dodge," he said. "We have never denied that we hadn't talked to Dodge. We are a GM team in the year 2000. Most everybody knows that you talk to the manufacturers and most of the deals that are out there, unless you're a Yates or maybe some of the Hendrick stuff, most of the manufacturing deals go from year to year. We just renewed our deal with Pontiac yesterday for the year 2000. So that's where we're at with that. For our stuff for the year 2000, we are still a GM Pontiac team."
Now little more than three weeks away from the Daytona 500, Petty hopes his teams are prepared for the marathon month of February. He won't rest until he's sure they are. That's the Petty way.
"What you have to understand about Petty Enterprises ... is that Petty Enterprises has always had owner/drivers," he said. "Lee Petty was an owner/driver, Richard Petty was an owner/driver, in the early '80's when I ran my team out of there and my father went to driving for Curb, I was an owner/driver then.
"Even though I went back to Petty Enterprises last year, my father relinquished a lot of what was going on and turned it over to us. Even last year, we operated under the same assumption that we were owner/drivers. And, yeah, we've said it before, we're not a Hendrick Motorsports. We make our living and what we do; we do it at the race track. That's all we do. We don't have peripheral businesses, so we've always been an owner/driver family."