Petty excited about 500 chances

Petty excited about 500 chances

Kyle Petty hasn't won a race in a decade. A hard pill to swallow for the son of the greatest racing legend of all time, but it's something that has never seemed to faze the younger Petty. Kyle Petty. Photo by Eric Gilbert. Petty says...

Kyle Petty hasn't won a race in a decade. A hard pill to swallow for the son of the greatest racing legend of all time, but it's something that has never seemed to faze the younger Petty.

Kyle Petty.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Petty says that in the big picture of Petty Enterprises it's not that important that he wins another race; rather, their main priority is to once again become a team that could possibly compete for a win.

And that feat that has not been possible in the last several seasons.

"The important thing for us is to be competitive," said Petty. "We don't have to win. If you could build back to where you could win that would be big.it's not necessary before this thing is said and done that Kyle Petty has to get back to victory lane. I'm not downplaying that. I'd like to win races, but it's not an end all end all. When you put things on the priority list, that's not the No. 1 thing, the No. 1 thing is to get Petty Enterprises into victory lane."

The organization hasn't won an event since John Andretti crossed the finish line in Martinsville in 1999 and the last time Petty wheeled a car into the winners circle was in Dover of 1995 -- some 290 races ago.

Kyle Petty.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
It's a personal losing streak that would have got many drivers out of the seat, and it's combined with company failure. Petty runs the day-to-day operations at PE, so the run of bad luck is a double-blow to his ego. Despite all the hardships the once dominated Petty organization has survived, Petty still insists that he has not formulated an action plan to retire from the series anytime soon.

"I'm at the stage in my career where if I've got five or six years left, I am a lucky man," said Petty. "I don't see myself driving five or six years down the road. I don't see myself quitting this year, either, so somewhere between that. It's like I said the other day, the sport is changing. I don't think Jeff Gordon will make it to his 25th year like Rusty or some of these guys have.

"These guys are going to start retiring early. We're the last guys coming along and doing this and it just so happens that not only am I in the last batch that's going to run until they're 45 or 50, I'm probably going to be in the last batch that's ever going to own and drive and be a part of that, too. When I quit it'll take two categories out of the equation."

The miserable results Petty Enterprises has achieved in the last few years can be attributed to a variety of problems. Three different engine programs since 2001 and changes within the rules package of the Cup series have prevented PE from moving forward and gaining ground on the other Dodge Manufacturer sponsored teams.

"We had managed it (the engine program) for fifty years," said Petty. "It just wasn't my favorite place in the shop, so I didn't go up there a lot. That's my fault for letting it fall through the cracks, but once it fell through the cracks I didn't feel like sinking more money into it to do anything else with it."

This year the Petty Enterprises Dodge's will be powered by Evernham engines and the payoff is already visible. Petty was the leading Dodge in Daytona 500 qualifying and will start his Twin time-trial race from the seventh position.

"I think it surprised a lot of people in the garage area," Petty said. "But at the same time they know that Ray's stuff is good and you couldn't really judge how good or how bad our stuff was. I think that's been the biggest thing.

"Everybody has been congratulating me."

Nothing would please the fans or the Nextel garage more than to see the legendary Petty Enterprises once again find their way back to victory lane.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Jeff Gordon , Kyle Petty , Eric Gilbert