An Interview With: RICHARD PETTY NASCAR Teleconference July 1, 2008 THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series video teleconference in advance of Saturday's life lock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. We have a...
An Interview With: RICHARD PETTY
July 1, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series video teleconference in advance of Saturday's life lock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. We have a very personal guest today, the king, known as 7time NASCAR champion Richard Petty, who this week is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first official NASCAR start.
Richard, you own some of the sports biggest records, and your name, plus that of your family's race team, Petty Enterprises are certainly synonymous with NASCAR; what's the significance of this golden anniversary to you?
RICHARD PETTY: It's just I've survived these years I guess more than anything else. You look back over the history and stuff, and I come along on the history; starting NASCAR, I think it was ten years old when I ran my first race, and I went to the very first Cup race they had in 1949 in Charlotte with my father when I was like 11 years old.
So I've been there ever since NASCAR started basically and I just come along at the right time to grow up with NASCAR.
Q: Pulling up the first race you were in, it says the Canadian exposition Stadium in Toronto, July 18, 1958; is that right?
RICHARD PETTY: That was the first Cup race. The first race I was in was a convertible race.
Q: Do you remember this particular race, your first race in the Cup Series?
RICHARD PETTY: Yeah, we went to Canada and I was running around there getting lap and Jim Roper knocked me in the wall, so I wound up in the wall and he ended up winning the race, so it wasn't all bad.
Q: It got better as the years went on, I guess.
RICHARD PETTY: Yeah, I got better.
Q: You had a lot of success at Daytona. Can you just talk about that and how it impacted your career overall?
RICHARD PETTY: Really, I grew up with Daytona. The very first 500 in 1959 -- we went to Daytona to run the race, and, you know, lost to Jim Roper but it wound up being really great for my career from the standpoint that Daytona was just getting started, I was just getting started, and as Daytona grew, I was fortunate enough to win some races there, and I grew with it.
Always said about Daytona was, when you win Daytona you win it all year long whether you ran any more races or not. So everywhere you went you was introduced as a Daytona 500 winner and that has made it work really, really good for me and like I say, I was able to win races and win championships, I was still winning some Daytona races and it just grew together.
So I think the history of Daytona, and Richard Petty kind of go side by side.
Q: I wanted to talk to you about Kyle Busch, he's won six races already and is on a pace to win double digits and you did that two times in your career. Can you talk about what it's like when you get on a roll when you're winning 10, 11, 12, 13 more races in the year?
RICHARD PETTY: You know, you get on a roll and you wonder, where was he at last year, you know what I mean? Why wasn't we doing that? And you get on a roll and everything goes good for a while, and all of a sudden, you're like Tony Stewart is right now. He should have won seven or eight races or should have had a chance to win this year, but some things keep happening.
I tell the story, in '71 and '72 we won a championship and a bunch of races. '73, we couldn't win anything, and from the standpoint that it was just a bad year, we had the same car, the same crew, same engine, same engine people, had the same deal, and then we came back and couldn't do anything in '73.
Came back in 74 and '75 and with the same crew, same car, everything, and won a championship again.
So when you're on a roll, you just have to take advantage of it, because a lot of times you don't know why you're there, and you just know that working hard will keep you there but sometimes slaps you down. I think we have to lose races from time to time in order to enjoy the ones we win, because if you won all the time, then it would get kind of boring for you and everybody else.
Q: Is it tougher to do nowadays? There's only been a couple in the last ten years; is it harder with the balance of teams now to win double digits?
RICHARD PETTY: You know, it's been harder to do, because you have to figure that the cars are running so much closer now, and you can't afford to get a lap down or two laps down no matter how fast your car is; you're not going to win, and we had different circumstances at the particular time that we was doing some of our stuff.
So when you look at it from that standpoint, there's nobody really dominates for very long. I mean, like the end of last year, the Hendricks' cars were beating everybody and you said, man, it's going to be terrible the next year and they are going to win everything. Well, they have come out and I think won one or two races and you wonder what happens. And they sit there, and say, what are we doing different, what are we doing wrong.
You know, whatever roll you're on, you really don't know why you're there a lot of times. So you just have to live with it, and it will go on for Busch right now, he's in that zone. All of the planets are lined up or whatever it is and he's doing his thing. And then it won't be long before somebody else will take over the hill.
Q: You saw Mark Martin signing with Hendrick Motorsports for next season, so you have a pretty strong group there. What was it like back in the day when they put you and David Pearson and Bobby Allison on the same team?
RICHARD PETTY: A lot of competition, I know that, because they were very competitive deals.
And as far as they weren't the same players. They was team players with whoever they was working with, Woods brothers or whoever. But when you wound up and if they had the same two cars on one team, it would have been kind of difficult for any of us to accept at that particular time, because the times have changed now, and these guys are coming in and they are coming in as team drivers to begin with, so they look at it a little bit different.
Q: You guys would have had a lot of brawls back then probably, more than you had?
RICHARD PETTY: Could be. The money wasn't there, either.
Q: Of all your accomplishments, does any one stand out particularly for you?
RICHARD PETTY: Just being here I guess. If you looked at all of those wrecks I ran over a period of 35 years or whatever.
I tell everybody, when I won my very first race, I said, nothing will ever be this big. But then you get fortunate enough to win more and more and over a period of time; it gets diluted. So no matter how happy you are one day in, three for our weeks, you've done forgot about that and you're on another kick.
So I don't know of anything as one individual. The only deal is you just kind of cup it all together and say, okay, that's what happened while they was in this particular zone, and so really, I don't think there's any one particular day that it really stands out or any particular race.
I do know that when I sit around and talk about it or listen to people or whatever, the ones that got away are the ones that you really worry about and you say, we should have done better in this race or that race. So those are probably in your mind more than the ones that you won.
Q: What's it like to be Richard Petty and to have people call you "the King" and look at you that way?
RICHARD PETTY: I don't know. I ain't never been nothing else. And what was fortunate from my standpoint, the times I came along, the personalities I was around, the people that helped me and stuff, it was a gradual deal. It wasn't a deal where you didn't do anything one year and you come out and win 10 or 12 races next year or a championship or something like that.
It grew and I grew up with NASCAR and I grew up with the way -- the times have changed in the world, and I grew up in a time and place that time has changed in racing, and it just kept adding on day after day after day and it just built in to what it is now.
I never sat there and said, look what you've done or look what you've been able to accomplish, because it was a deal that was just moving all the time. That one year we won ten races in a row, we won one, won two, done that before, won three or four, and by the time you won the fifth or sixth race, you wasn't trying to add any more, because as quick as that race was over, you're saying, where are we going to run next and what do we need to do to win that race? You didn't really get involved in it until it was all over with it and then you look back on it.
Q: When you look back on it, what do you think of your career?
RICHARD PETTY: I just think I was a lucky son of a gun to be born at the right place at the right time under the right circumstances with a little bit of talent and a lot of talented people around me to put me in a position to be where I'm at today.
Q: You've got to be pretty happy to have Bobby Labonte locked into a longterm contract. Talk about that and what does it mean to have a driver like that on your race team?
RICHARD PETTY: Well, we're glad we got Bobby all squared away. He was a little nervous there for a while, and then when we got new partners with our new people, Boston Ventures, then, you know, I think he was going to stay anyway, but just an over the top deal.
But right now, he's our building block and is somebody that is a very steady and competitive deal to build around and now we'll say, okay, Bobby, you're our building block and you're in here for the long term so you don't have to worry about losing your mind from that standpoint.
So no matter if somebody comes in and starts beating and you stuff, you're here. So I think that gives him confidence that now he'll work with whoever we bring in, whether it's a younger driver, older driver to try to help the whole team, because it most likely will be his last drive. So he's going to have to look at it from the standpoint that he's got to build his future around and help Petty Enterprises build their future around him. So he's depending on them us and we're depending on him and looking to go forward with him.
Q: How is your relationship going with your new financial partner and also your move to the Charlotte area?
RICHARD PETTY: Good. We're doing good with that part of it. The deal is it's a new venue. It's a new venue for them and a new venue for us. So we have to get our arms around two does what, how do we get our sponsorships in, how do we get our sponsors all lined up and how do we get the crews all lined up.
So I don't see us having a major impact on anything outside right now, as far as seeing the car doing better or any of that kind of stuff. I think it's kind of a deal where we have to sort of sit back and look and say, okay, what do we need now to go forward. We've got this, this, that, that, this driver and whatever, and sit down and say, okay, what's your next move in order to get more competitive with what we're doing.
So it's just going to take a little while for Boston Ventures to sort of learn the racing business. They are in the financial business. They work on that end of it. But when it comes to how we operate business in racing, it operates a little bit different than what your regular businesses operate.
So there's a lot of give and take in racing than if you was just keeping a set of books and looking at the numbers. Our numbers are how we finish at the racetrack. So those are the things we have to start sitting down and figuring out the best way to go with it.
Q: Is there any driver from this generation that you would have liked to have competed with?
RICHARD PETTY: I didn't like to compete with any of them guys. I liked to beat them. You know, there's probably two or three of the drivers that's running today that probably could have come back and have been pretty competitive in -- what do they call, it days gone by or whatever it is.
And there's a few of the drivers that I came up with, like the Pearsons and the Allisons and the Yarboroughs that could have competed with the guys today. So there's always that little crossover there that some of the guys that make it -- you know, it's just a different ball game out there now from the standpoint of how these guys approach it, the equipment they have, the backing that they have from the sponsors, the whole deal. It's really the hard -- it's like comparing apples and oranges; it's hard to really stay on that deal.
Yeah, I would have liked to have been in my prime right today and been in a car that was capable of winning races and go out and race with these guys, and so would Pearson and Allison and Yarborough.
Continued in part 2