RICHARD PETTY (Owner Petty Enterprises) OPENING REMARKS "A lot of you have been here and a lot of you haven't been here, but when you come through that gate out there's been 265-266 Cup wins that's come out of this shop, so we're pretty proud of...
RICHARD PETTY (Owner Petty Enterprises)
OPENING REMARKS "A lot of you have been here and a lot of you haven't been here, but when you come through that gate out there's been 265-266 Cup wins that's come out of this shop, so we're pretty proud of that. You come by the house up there, you see that white house, that's where I was born. I've been all over the world, but I always come back home and this is home. We've been here. We've won races. We've lost a lot of races, and I guess after '05 we really weren't doing that good. Me and Kyle got together and he went out and got Robbie Loomis to come back. Between Robbie and Kyle, they kinda wandered around and they got Bobby to come in. That's been a big start for Petty Enterprises. (Bill) Wilburn came on to take care of Kyle, and that's helped a lot. We were in a building stage last year and we're still building. We went from 35th to 25th or 20th or whatever. We have been going in the right direction and we feel like what we did last year will continue to work out this year, hopefully anyway. That's what we're working on. We've been really fortunate over the years. We've had some really super sponsors that have been with us years and years and years. The Dodge people, the STP people, the Goody's people. I guess we've been with Goody's so long, about 30 years, they just gave me a lifetime contract and said the heck with it. Go on down the road. Some of you thought I had a lifetime contract with STP. I did as long as I drove the racecar. After that we deal with year to year. Goody's was one of the first major sponsors or contributors to Victory Junction Gang Camp. We built the hospital over there with the money they supplied. We've been fortunate to have all these sponsors that have stayed with us through the years, and hopefully we can start paying them back this year."
COMMENT ON TOYOTA ENTERING THE NEXTEL CUP SERIES "I'm OK with that. I have to be. I think it just shows how much NASCAR has grown all over the world. People from all over the world come to drive the cars, getting other car manufacturers to come in. Everybody don't drive an American car. Sorry about that Dodge. As we grow, there are 300 million people in the United States, so we're getting new fans coming in. This helps create new interest in NASCAR and new interest to fans to come. I think it's the best thing that can happen to us in the long run. It's going to kinda hard to swallow it to begin with because we've got so many people, so many places, so many positions and all of a sudden we've got a bunch of new cars and teams thrown in. That just makes it that much tougher, but it makes the competition that much more from the spectators standpoint."
DO YOU THINK THE SPORT IS MOVING TOO FAR TOO FAST? "I hope it's not moving too fast. I know it's moving far away, but you've got to figure when I came along things were a little bit slower in technology and everything else. As NASCAR goes forward a bunch of people my age who went to races and liked what they saw then, they're not here anymore. We have to create new fans. In order to create new fans, we have to do the job a little bit different, so we have to know what the new fans want to see. We have to listen to the heartbeat of America to find out where we really need to go. You always hear the deal if it ain't broke don't fix it. It ain't broke completely, but it's not growing, either, if we don't make changes. That's the new society. That's the new generation. When my dad came along he thought one way. I came along and things changed. I changed the business or I changed or changed with the business. Kyle comes along and he's got a whole new set of the way he looks at things. Then comes the next generation with a bunch of new drivers and new stuff now, and they're looking at NASCAR a little different. When you talk to me you're talking to history. I've been here since 1949 going to the races. I've seen all the changes. Some of them have been good, and some of them have been bad. No matter what NASCAR throws at us from an owners' standpoint or a drivers'standpoint, we cope with it. Some of the rules are good, some of them are bad. We as owners make NASCAR look good. In doing that, we've got to go forward with whatever the new deal is. The new car is great. The safety features and stuff, I probably wish they would have spent more time on the safety deal and then when they got through with that just put a body on it. They've been trying to do the body and safety features and stuff. I think they're probably a little squeamish with it. In fact they're probably afraid if the general public will accept it. We don't know. We'll have to throw it out there and see. They changed the rules a little bit on the championship. We've got to keep guessing at things and see what will work and what will not work."
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge Charger)
OPENING REMARKS "Really it started last year with Bobby and Robbie and Todd Parrott at the beginning of last year. I think the group you see up here with Billy (Wilburn) and Paul (Andrews) and Robbie and Bobby, that's the tip of the iceberg. These are the people you come to for answers to your questions. These are the people you see, but there's a great group of guys that work here at Petty Enterprises that make Petty Enterprises a strong organization. I said it all year long in comparison to other sports franchises, when this group you see here sitting in front of you came to Petty Enterprises we were able to go out and hire better shock guys, better tire guys, better fabricators. It sports term our bench just got deeper. That's basically what happened. We didn't have a deep enough bench to compete on a day-to-day basis with some of the other organizations out there. This group you see before you here, obviously this year with our team, with Wells Fargo, with Marathon, with Tire Kingdome, with Coca-Cola, with the four major sponsors we have on the 45 car, we're looking forward to the Dodge Charger and we're looking forward to the Avenger. I may be one of the few drivers that are really looking forward to the car of tomorrow, the Avenger. I think that's a huge step for NASCAR, a huge step in the right direction for a lot of different reasons. Hopefully our organization from the very beginning we did a lot car of tomorrow (COT) testing. One of our goals is to go to Bristol and kick everybody's butt in that first race and be the first winner in the (COT) and have on the nameplate here at Petty Enterprises. We're excited about a lot of things that are happening this year. These guys have done a tremendous job turning some momentum. The last five or 10 races last year Bobby had some huge points races with the 43 Cheerios Dodge. We kinda struggled through the middle of the year with the 45 team and worked our way back into the top 35 so we had our own points deal going on, but we do have a little momentum going into this year. It may not be a lot, but a little is more than we've had in the past and we can build on that. We're looking forward to a bright 2007."
DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO QUIT DRIVING? "No. All that stuff is back like it was last year. Wells Fargo has come back. We have a multi-year deal with Wells Fargo, with Marathon, with Tire Kingdom, with Coca-Cola. We had a huge promotion around the Nextel All-Star race last year with Coca-Cola. There is so much going on right now. I'm like one of those guys if you ever thought about cutting back, it just keeps getting busier with camp with Victory Junction with everything we do there. With everything that's going on at Petty Enterprises, that's good. I'm glad that's story keeps moving because last year about this same time this was a hot story."
DO YOU HAVE OPTIONS TO WORK IN TV? "I've talked to the TNT people about numerous options. I did four or five races for them last year in the Busch Series. We had talked a month or so ago and obviously with Benny's passing and with the way things have gone there hasn't been a lot of communication lately. If I have an opportunity to do some stuff with them I would more than welcome the opportunity to do something at some point in time. If that's this year, great. If it's in two years or 10 years, that's great, too. I just want to keep that option open. I could possibly do anything. There's a couple of years there I sat out 10 or 15 just because I wasn't fast enough. I can sit out any amount."
COMMENT ON COT "Go back to the very first test they had on the car of tomorrow and we were there. When you go to Talladega, we were there. When you go to Daytona and they ran the wings for the first time, and Atlanta when they ran that stuff for the first time, we were there. We knew from an organization we weren't going to be able to come in in the 11th hour and throw $15 or $20 million at it. We had to spread our dollar out over a period of time. We decided to get in on the ground floor and start from the very beginning. We built three or four COT's that were obsolete when we were building them because they were changing the roll bars and the configurations, but that's OK because we needed to be there and be a part of it. I think from that perspective for us, Bristol will be a culmination of two years of work for Petty Enterprises, just like it will be for NASCAR. I think when you roll that thing out there at Bristol you're going to sit back and you're going to say it's all been worth it."
HOW DO YOU FEEL GOING INTO THE SEASON? "My stress level is real low right now. Things change. Maybe it's because I'm a year older, but I think it's because of where we're at competitively. We're in a lot better position than where we were at a year ago. I think there were a lot of questions going into a season. You don't just hire a Bobby Labonte or Robbie Loomis or Todd Parrott and come in and take the stuff you have and be competitive. They have to build their own stuff. I think that's part of it. If you're just going to hire really good people to come in and do what you want them to do, then you might as well go to the high school and hire a bunch of 16 year olds. If you're going to use their expertise and ask them questions and expect to use their answers and their input, then you've got to ride it out. I felt like the first six months of the year would be tougher for us. Surprisingly the first part of last year we were a lot more competitive than I ever dreamed of which showed we were stronger on our own than I felt like we were. Then we fell on our face in the middle of the year and it was like what happened. By the end of the year, we came back on an upswing. I think we're in a lot better shape than we were a year ago. I don't think we can sit here and say we're going to be a top five team. I don't think we can sit here and say we're going to win five races. We're not that kind of a team. You may get that from a Gibbs or Hendrick or Roush, but you're not going to get that from Petty Enterprises. Bobby could have finished in the top 20 last year. He fell just short. We jumped into the top 35, so that was big for us. If Bobby can finish somewhere in the top 15 and we can finish somewhere in the top 25 or 30 then that's been a huge year for us. I've said this 10 million times. We didn't fall where we are in one year and we're not going to get back in one year. We've worked on this six or seven years. To be able to climb back a little bit every year will be a success."
BOBBY LABONTE (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger)
OPENING REMARKS "I want to thank Richard and Kyle for giving me this opportunity last year. I think this year the depth of the race team is a lot stronger to start off with. I'm really excited about that. Again, the opportunity was right last year for me to come over here, and I'm so excited to be a part of it -- especially right now driving the 43 car with General Mills as a sponsor and what a sponsor to have. They've been in the sport quite a number of years and they're great people to work with. I'm really looking forward to starting the season off right. Toward the end of last year Paul and I got together and we hit on the right things and we started coming around at the end of the year. I hated to end the season because you want to roll on at that point in time. That gives us the enthusiasm to begin the year. I feel really blessed and excited that we have that, and I'm I can't wait to go racing. I didn't want to end last year because when you're on a roll you don't want to stop. I think the combination we have is going to be working together a lot more than it has in the past as far as a two-car team. I feel like that will be a plus for us. We're all in it together and we're all working hard to make it better. We're going to have a better year this year than we had last year. We can see things happening that are going to make us better. I can't wait to get to get to Daytona. It was exciting last year. It's going to be better this year. I want to say thanks to Dodge, I know Mike (Accavitti, Director Dodge Motorsports and SRT Planning) is here. Thanks for all your support."
DID YOU FEEL THE TEAM TURNED A CORNER LAST YEAR? "We started off the season strong and got into a lull there halfway through the year. Then we came back strong. The change we made with 10 races to go, we were always dabbling in something. We couldn't finish the deal. We couldn't make 500 laps. We couldn't make 500 miles. Then after Todd left and went back to Robert and Billy came on board to be Kyle's crew chief, and Paul came over to be mine, I think that was the little stimulation we needed and gave us both a little bit different outlook on things. All it takes is a tenth of a second here and a tenth of a second there and all of a sudden you're 15 cars ahead and you finish eighth instead of 28th or 18th. I think it was there. We just couldn't grab the chemistry we needed, and we all can attest that chemistry is a big part of this. I think on my part when things were going a little bit different with Todd and he was thinking about going back south to Yates, Robbie and I talked about it for a long time. When it came about Billy became available and Paul was in the shop already and just moved sides. That's what ticked me, I think, to the next step. I had someone I could talk to that made me go a little faster, a little further and talk about things more. That's what I put my finger on as chemistry, and that's what it's all about."
COMMENT ON THE NEW CHASE FORMAT "I kind of like it. I can honestly say I didn't like the deal three years ago when they started doing it, but I think it's like anything else. You grow accustomed to it and it's OK now. You get five extra points to win. Twelve guys and only 10 sit on stage, that's OK. If you win more during the season that puts you in different places for the final 10. I think it's all good."
COMMENT ON DAYTONA TEST "I thought we were just a little bit above average, not quite where we want to be. Last year at Daytona when we tested we weren't this good. Robbie seems to think we'll qualify in the top 12, but I'm not quite that optimistic on it. If you're not on the front row, you'd better be driving good. Ray's guys have some good power coming back for us. I believe in our guys here have touched on the right ideas so we can go back there and qualify a little faster. It's going to be close qualifying and luckily we're in the top 35 if we have a problem."
ANY GOALS FOR 2007? "We had an accident at Homestead and it was my fault. We had an accident at Loudon, and I didn't think that one was my fault. Those other eight races in those last 10 races were really good. If we can race like that I think we'll be OK, but that's only eight out of 10 races. We've got to do it 26 plus 10. I looked at last year's book (2005) and I saw Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne like 18th, 19th and 20th in points. Where were they this year? I've got as much optimism as they do because I've gotta believe the way we finished the year and the way we were running all we've got to do is find those little bitty things. It's not about changing a chassis or body. It's about tweaking those chassis and tweaking those bodies and getting the right people."
CAN YOU WIN A RACE? "I think so. I think given the races we ran good at last year, and we weren't quite ready for that. We didn't have the best pit stops. A lot of it is about confidence and chemistry and I think what we had toward the end, I feel a whole lot better about it."
ROBBIE LOOMIS (Vice President of Racing Operations)
OPENING REMARKS -- "I love Petty Enterprises. I think everybody knows that. This place, like I've said before, is like Lambeau Field. It's won. It has a lot of heritage and it means a lot to us. I think like everybody else we want to keep growing. Richard and Kyle have a big commitment. We've been able top spend some more money over the winter on some more equipment, R&D research, wind tunnel time. It's going to be a very busy year. A lot of employees are working around the clock to prepare for the COT. Kyle is going to be testing the car up in Nashville. It's going to be a hard year, but it's going to be a great year. It's a year we're committed to getting Petty Enterprises back to victory lane. I'm sure all the shops are talking about winning. We've got to stop talking about it, as Richard would say, and we've got to go out there and do it. We appreciate you guys being here. I think you feel and get the heartbeat of this place and what it means. Like everybody else we hope to grow into a three-car team, a four-car team. We don't want to announce every year that we're going to a three-car team or a four-car team. We hope to have something down the road that we are growing to a three-car team. We have a lot of areas we want to keep improving, but I think we have the foundation with Richard and Kyle and look forward to the future at Petty Enterprises."
DO YOU EVER ASK YOURSELF IF IT'S ALL WORTH IT? "It's definitely all worth it. We've talked about that about planning and organizing. We hope the next time we have one of these it's in that new facility. That's one of the things we want to work toward. At the same time, we obviously want to get ready for the Daytona 500, the Bristol race, other things along the way, but that's one of our major goals to be in our new facility. It would definitely be toward the south, whether it be Salisbury or Charlotte. It's a long way away. Right now we have to be focused on winning the Daytona 500. That's first and foremost on our minds."
COMMENT ON RELOCATING PETTY ENTERPRISES "Richard knows he needs to do it. He knows he needs the competition thing to keep attracting and drawing the better people. Deep down inside does he want to do it? No, but he knows it's something that needs to be done to raise the level of the team and keep building on that foundation we've got started. It would be at least 12-18 months before we have ground breaking. I think there will always be something here (Level Cross, N.C.). That's always been Richard's biggest concern. If we come up with the planned facility, the big thing is going to be what goes on here. Kyle and Bobby both love road racing. I would love nothing more to have a series here so the boys here could work on those cars, the ones that don't want to transfer. I think this will be a combination of a race shop and museum."
COMMENT ON DRIVER DEVELOPMENT "We are watching a couple of young drivers. We're very high on Chase Miller. We think he's got a lot of natural raw talent, but it's got to be developed."
WILL THE COT LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD? "Ten years ago I would have said it's going to be a huge advantage. In today's world, knowing what I know, the strong teams can refine that product a little bit better. It's like they can take a little bit extra sandpaper and smooth it out, so I think it is going to level the playing field, but I think when the difference of separation comes in if they get an advantage with that car it's going to be a huge advantage. We're going to really understand what we have. I think because the wing is so different to us all, the one that gets hold of it and really understands the downforce... We sent a car to Germany to try to understand what we have. It's something we felt we had to do with the COT to really get a good understand on the aerodynamics of that car."
-credit: dodge motorsports