Richard Petty coveres a wide range of topics at in an interview at Homestead

 Richard Petty coveres a wide range of topics at in an interview at Homestead
Nov 18, 2012, 3:31 AM

Richard Petty Motorsports announced today that drivers Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola will return to the organization next season. Owner and seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Richard Petty talked about retaining both men on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Richard Petty
Richard Petty

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

RICHARD PETTY, Owner – Richard Petty Motorsports

YOU’VE GOT YOUR LINEUP ALL SET FOR NEXT YEAR? “As far as we know we’ve got it pretty well lined up for next year with drivers, sponsors, Ford, so hopefully everything is lined up.”

WHAT CONVINCED YOU ABOUT ARIC TO WANT HIM BACK? “We’ve seen a little bit of improvement in him every race from the standpoint that this is really the first time he’s ever been with a stable team, or with a team long enough to really get settled in. He’s been at some different places, but he was just thrown in and ran six months or something, so he’s never been stable. I think now that he’s stable, he’s got a kid so that’s gonna stable him up some (laughing), so we felt the improvement we’ve seen this year, if he could continue to do that, then it’s gonna be really good.”

YOU’VE MOVED PERSONNEL. DO YOU FEEL YOU’RE IN A GOOD PLACE NOW? “We’re the best we’ve been. In other words, we’ve seen improvement with the movements that we’ve made. Maybe some of the finishes aren’t there, but the running has been better and the shop has been a lot better, so I think we’ll pretty well stay with the setup we’ve got now. That’s the reason we were wanting to make some changes here at the end of the year. We felt if we made changes this year and kind of get them working together to begin with, then you find out whether it’s gonna work or not, so these guys have all been together for three or four race, so you find out ‘yes they can or no they can’t.’ That was one reason why it’s been kind of screwed up the last six months. We were basically looking toward ’13.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT MARCOS COMING BACK? “As everybody knows he’s super-good on road courses, but there are just a couple of them and it’s hard to just say, ‘OK, he’s gonna win those races and that’s it.’ But I think we’ve got him a little bit more stable now also, that he’s decided he wants to run at least another year over here. His big ambition is to win an oval track race, so that coupled together is one reason why he’s going to be able to do that. One week he’s really good at it and the next week I don’t know, but I think he’s getting more stable with it and, again, it’s sort of a passion with him now. He knows he’s decent on road courses, but he would really, really love to win an oval.”

SO THAT’S A ONE-YEAR DEAL FOR HIM? “This one year coming up, yeah. We don’t know if he’s ready to go home or what, but for sure he wants to stay another year to try to do something with these oval races.”

DO YOU FEEL YOU’RE IN GOOD SHAPE COMPARED TO PAST YEARS? “This is the most stable we’ve been in the last four or five years at RPM. I mess up the years, but when Gillett did his deal we had to get that back and then it’s just been turmoil every winter, really. I think this is gonna be our most stable winter in the last four or five years.”

YOU DON’T NEED TO DO THIS. WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK? “It’s a lifestyle if you really get down to it. I’ve been around racing since I was 11 years old. It’s sort of like a farmer living in the country all the time and then moving to the city. What are you gonna do?”

DID ARIC DO ANYTHING THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS TO SECURE HIS POSITION? “I don’t know if it secured, but I think he settled in – probably yes because we were back and forth looking, and I think when we made the crew chief change that put his stock up. We found out it wasn’t a one-sided deal. We kept blaming him for some of the stuff that was going on and it wasn’t but half of it his fault.”

IS HE HARD TO JUDGE BECAUSE THIS WAS HIS FIRST FULL YEAR? “Yeah, because when we hired him to come we were looking at him and said, ‘OK, he’s kind of an unknown. He’s pretty good with this deal, but can he go to the next step?’ We were looking at a lot of different drivers and some of the drivers were already at that step and we said, ‘OK, maybe Aric has more potential than what he’s showing,’ and I think that’s starting to come around and that was the reason we made the crew chief changes and stuff – to see if it was driver, crew chief, team deal, or what. So I think he came out on top in that deal.”

WHEN PENSKE COMES NEXT YEAR TO FORD WILL THAT HAVE ANY IMPACT? “When you put competition within the team, I’m gonna say the Ford team, so if Penske comes, then the other Ford teams are gonna be looking at him and trying to beat him. He’s gonna try to beat all the Ford teams before they beat anybody else, so this makes for some inner-company competition, so I think that will wake up a lot of us.”

WILL IT HELP THAT THEY MIGHT BRING SOME STUFF THAT TRANSFERS TO YOU GUYS? “No, because anything that Penske’s got, Penske’s gonna keep (laughter). That’s not detrimental. That’s just the way they operate.”

ARE YOU COMFORTABLY FINANCED FOR TWO FULL TEAMS NEXT YEAR? “We’ve never had enough money (laughing). We’ve got enough to survive, I’ll put it that way. We’re like everybody else, we’re always looking for the next deal and we’ll continue to do that. Our packages are not completely sold out. I think we’ve got six or seven races on the 43 car that we’d like to move on, so if you see anybody who wants to be a sponsor, let us know.”

WHO IS GOING TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “The guy that is the most lucky. You look at the race last night, I don’t know if you all watched the Truck race, but the 3 was right up there doing all he could and had a chance to win the championship and fate stepped in and that’s what it winds up being when you run for the championship. The driver does all he can do, the crew does all they can do, and it’s something that nobody has control over that winds up winning the thing. Last year, you could say it was driver against driver because the cars all finished the races and they went head-to-head for the last 10 races. This year, it’s not been that way. The drivers haven’t competed against each other as much as, ‘are you gonna finish this race or aren’t you gonna finish this race?’ So everybody has had trouble more so than they had last year, so that’s what it’s gonna come down to.”

DOES IT TAKE A SPECIAL MINDSET TO COME FROM BEHIND TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE LAST RACE? “Mindset, maybe for some people. We’ve been fortunate. We won a couple championships in the last race – ’79 and maybe ’71 or ’72 – and when we went into the race me and Dale sat down he said, ‘What’s our strategy?’ I said, ‘There ain’t no strategy. What got you where you’re at? Whatever got us here, that’s what we’re gonna do.’ So everybody is gonna look at it a little bit different and the situation where even if they’re tied going into the last race, things happen beyond your control so who knows what’s gonna happen? But as far as competing against each other head-to-head, that doesn’t really determine the championship it’s uncontrollable things, I think. I always look at it as though that’s the way it’s supposed, that’s fate so you just go along with it.”

IS IT HARDER TO WIN ONE UNDER THE CHASE FORMAT THAN WHEN YOU RACED? “Not really. I mean, you’ve got a 10-race championship. If you look, most anybody that won a championship when there was 48 races, you take any 10 races in that deal, most of the time they didn’t do good in all 48 races, but you can take any part of that section and put 10 good races together and that’s what they do now. They run all year to get a chance to put 10 races together.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF BRAD KESELOWSKI? “He does some stuff with us with the Paralyzed Veterans of America. He’s good about that. He’s come on board. You looked at him last year and you said, ‘What is Penske doing? What is he thinking?’ But he bops out this year and all the stars get lined up, so you never know. You watch him in Nationwide and from time to time he seemed pretty good, and the next time he was busy running over somebody. Between him and the crew chief and the team together they’ve matured a little bit. They’ve gotten to be steady and you know what to expect every week and he steps up. He drives the fool out of the thing.”

MARCOS SAID YESTERDAY HIS JOY WERE HIS KIDS AND BRAD SAID HIS CELL PHONE. ARE WE GOING TO A NEW ERA? “Every generation looks at things different. My generation way back, we didn’t have all of those cellular phones and all that tweeting and stuff that they’ve got now, so we had to entertain ourselves some other way.”

WAS IT HYPOCRITICAL FOR NASCAR TO FINE HIM THIS WEEK AFTER HE DID IT AT DAYTONA? “I think it’s hypocritical because he did it at Daytona and NASCAR had a big meeting with everybody and said, ‘That’s great. Everybody go out there and do this just as much as you can,’ and then they say, ‘You’re not supposed to do it in the race car.’ But I don’t think that one was in the rule book to begin with. I think they made that one up as they went.”

HOW DID YOU GUYS HANDLE INCIDENTS LIKE LAST WEEK? WOULD YOU CALL GUYS ON THE PHONE? “The way we handled it was the same as what happened in the garage area in Phoenix – you jumped in there and beat on somebody’s head and got it squared away and forgot about a telephone. What’s apologizing over a telephone? That’s zero, man. Anybody can think that up. There’s no emotion, no feel, there’s nothing there. Some of you can do anything talking on that deal where you’re not talking to people eye-to-eye, so, to me, it’s a waste of time.”

IS IT A CHANGING OF THE TIME OF TECHNOLOGY OR DRIVERS IN THE MENTALITY OF THE DRIVERS IN THE SERIES? “It’s a change in the mentality of the drivers that they can get by with that and not really face up to what the problem really is. It’s not one-on-one, but technology maybe has leaned them in that direction.”

DID YOU ENJOY WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK? “I had a birds-eye view. I was up on top of the truck and looked right down on it. I said, ‘Get him, man.’ (laughing) It was enjoyable because I wasn’t down in there getting hit. I like those kind of fights, but it was just scuffling around – but it was entertaining, it really was.”

SO NASCAR NEEDS MORE OF THAT? “No, not really. Things like that have happened from the first race on, but the deal is they just didn’t have the TV or that many people around. In other words, if that had happened 40 years ago, there wasn’t but five or six guys in the whole garage area. Here, there were hundreds. So from the standpoint then, it wouldn’t have been covered. Nobody would have said anything. NASCAR might have come to the next race and said something to the drivers that they don’t need to do it or something like that, but it would have never got in the press or on TV or any of that stuff. Those are technical changes in our life that make it kind of hard to hide now.”

YOU SAID AMBROSE WANTS TO DO THIS ONE MORE YEAR. HOW LONG DO YOU WANT TO DO IT? “As long as my toes are turned up, I guess. I never thought about it. If I stopped doing what I’m doing, I’ve got to start a new life and I don’t think I’m gonna that. It’s just a way of life.”

ARIC GOT CAUGHT UP AT THE END OF THE WRECK. WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN THAT HAPPENED? SHOULD IT HAVE OCCURRED? “It definitely shouldn’t have occurred. I thought that Jeff was a little more under control than that, but you’ve got to figure when you look at his whole year, that sort of summed up his whole year. No matter how good he’s run, something happens. He’s just had one of those years where he’s run really good, he’s just not been able to finish the thing. I think it was just a year of frustration and that was the way he expressed himself. Most of the time he’s a little bit more congenial than that as far as letting it get away from him. It just flat got away from him and when the 43 got in the wreck, he had slowed up and then a car hit him in the rear and knocked him into it. The 20 car is the one that really got caught. We didn’t really get caught. We were in another accident that was caused by that, but we weren’t in that accident.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID HE WANTS TO WIN 8 CHAMPIONSHIPS TO BE CONSIDERED THE BEST DRIVER EVER. IF HE DOES THAT, WILL HE BECOME THE GREATEST? “That would make him the greatest of this era. There’s no way you can compare what Pearson and Allison have done against what he’s doing now because it’s a different ballgame. The rules are different, but the big deal is the competition is so much different and the drivers are different. In other words, if Jimmie Johnson had come along 30 or 40 years ago, would he have made it or wouldn’t he have made it? How would he have run against Pearson or Allison or Yarborough? I’ve got my suspicions, but you can’t really tell because they’re different race cars and different eras. You can’t compare Babe Ruth with any of the guys going today. They’ve got different balls, different bats, different pitchers, so there’s no fastest gun no matter what you’re doing.”

WHAT ARE YOUR SUSPICIONS ABOUT JOHNSON? “About him being able to come back and run when we did or even us coming up and running now just because conditions are so different. I’m from the old school, so I always felt like that was the best crowd.”


WHY NOT? “It just never really crossed my radar screen. I was too busy doing something else or thinking about something else. I never looked at another career, I’ll put it that way. I looked at doing different things in the same vein, but the TV wasn’t part of it.”

YOU SAID IT’S FATE THAT DETERMINES THE TITLE AND DW SAYS THEY BEAT THEMSELVES IN 1979. “Yeah, but it was still fate. They came to the last race with a different deal. They were gonna try to protect what they had because I think they had a two or three-point lead, so they had their strategy to say, ‘OK, this is the way we can do this and still win the championship,’ but we looked at it from a different way – ‘Hey, what got us here. That’s what we’re gonna do.’ When you look at the whole deal, that was just one race. There were 46 or 47 other races that we could have beat each other and didn’t, so it really just comes down to that.”

BRAD SAYS HE’S GOING TO DO WHAT HE’S BEEN DOING AND TRY TO WIN, NOT JUST PROTECT THE LEAD. IS THAT THE RIGHT WAY TO GO ABOUT IT? “Yeah, that would be the right way if it was tied or he was behind, it wouldn’t make any difference – or now that he is ahead it might be more feasible to look at it if you’re ahead you might not think about it as much. If you were closer, you might figure a different strategy, but I wouldn’t. I’d say, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be guys. Let’s go do it and see what happens.’ That’s my philosophy in life, so that’s the way I look at it.”

DOES THAT SAY SOMETHING ABOUT HIM? “Yeah, he’s got that mentality in his mind to say, ‘OK, guys. This is what got us here, let’s go do it.’ If it’s meant to be, it will happen. If it don’t, he’ll truck away and get ready for next year.”

THERE’S A PERCEPTION THAT IN THE FORD CAMP THERE IS ROUSH AND PENSKE AND THEN YOU GUYS ARE ALMOST A SECOND TIER. DO YOU HAVE THAT FEELING? “Roush has always been the number one deal when we came in, so if we’re closer to number one or further away from number one, it’s really immaterial. We’re not number one, so it doesn’t make any difference.”

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH WHAT YOU ENDED UP GETTING? “I’m not happy, I’m satisfied with where we’re at, let me put it that way.”

WILL ROUSH BE NUMBER ONE NEXT YEAR WITH PENSKE COMING OUT? “He’s gonna start out number one (laughter). And then we’ll see from there, but, again, it’s gonna be really good for the Ford camp because you’re gonna have two big bats swinging at each other and if we play our cards right, we can kind of catch it from each side and help ourselves.”

IT SEEMS YOU’RE ABLE TO GO WITH THE FLOW ON THESE ONE-YEAR DEALS. “We’re just surviving. We’ve always done that from the first year my dad ever ran. It’s hard for me to look at next week let alone next year and especially looking out two or three years. What’s the economy gonna be? Where is everybody gonna be? Am I gonna be here? Is NASCAR gonna be here? I believe in looking out, but I don’t believe in planning out from that standpoint.”

GOING BACK TO PHOENIX. WOULD IT HELP IF NASCAR HAD MORE EMOTION LIKE THAT? “What we really need to change things is we need some personalities from the driver standpoint. That puts our personalities out in front of people – when people get emotional. If everybody just stands and works with their cell phones and talks to each other on that, that’s no emotion and that doesn’t get to the public. They need to show some emotion that, ‘hey, we’re really involved in this and it’s our life and this is how much we believe and we’re right,’ so it wouldn’t hurt anything. The pushing and shoving is no big deal. The guys in Phoenix weren’t fighting, they were wrestling. How long has it been since you’ve seen a fight. Even on TV when the drivers get with their crews they’re just pushing around each other. It’s not big deal. It’s been a long time since I went by a bar or been to a bar and somebody just really fought. Think about it. When we used to play football we would fight a while and play a while, and we fought. We hit each other as hard as we could and you don’t see that. It’s a different society.”

BRAD SAID WHAT HAPPENED ON THE TRACK WAS AN EMBARRASSMENT. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT? “The way it was handled, yes. Now me sitting back looking at it. When the 24 hit the wall they should have thrown the caution because there was stuff falling off the car. That was the first mistake and that led to the next mistake or the next happening. Then when the 10 car spun out, the leader was halfway between the corner and the start-finish line and they were still throwing the white flag, so that was another miscalculation. I won’t say it was a mistake, so it was very confusing, plus all the other stuff happened, so I guess it was just anti-climactic the way it all ended up.”

Source: Ford Racing

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