Richard Petty on 2002 season

RICHARD PETTY (Owner Petty Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) "John Andretti is 24th. If everybody runs and finishes where they are now, then we're OK, but you know that's not going to happen. There's no advice. Run hard. You just go out and do...

RICHARD PETTY (Owner Petty Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)

"John Andretti is 24th. If everybody runs and finishes where they are now, then we're OK, but you know that's not going to happen. There's no advice. Run hard. You just go out and do the best you can with what you've got and hopes it works out.

"We've got to start finishing 30th and then start finishing 20th and then you've got to start finishing 10th. We didn't fall off the hill that quick, and we're not going to climb back up it that quick. It's going to take time. That's why we're changing a lot of stuff with the engine, trying to take some pressure off Kyle with Robin Pemberton. All these changes looked good on paper, but we've got to go out and make them work.

"It's hard on all of 'em. They work on the car and if you don't run good, you get down. Kyle has got a little more responsibility than some of them, but from that standpoint, he's been there and done that.

"Everything is new right now. Robin just came in the first of the year, and he had to see what was there. There's not been a lot of changes from that standpoint. He's just got to go around and talk to everybody and find out everybody's attitude and figure out where they fit in. Over a period of time, he'll be able to change the organization and shore up the weak spots and move people around or whatever it is. We've got a bunch of good people. I think a lot of times our organization is not quite good enough to use what we've got.

"People work that hard and do the things they do, they naturally want to get a plus on the bottom end. I think everybody is on that side right now. Buckshot hasn't been running that good. I think the 43 and 45 have been running decent. The 44 is not, so they jacked up all of 'em and changed 'em all and they're going to try it again.

"We're a lot better than we were last year speedwise, horsepower wise and all that kind of stuff, but we've got to go out and prove it now. This is the new engine people's first attempt with the Dodge engine with a restrictor deal. The restrictor is a little different than they were last year, so it's really new territory. We feel like an open deal (engine) they'll be better, but it's just going to take them a little more time with the plated stuff. I don't know if we're that far off with the plated stuff. They keep jacking around with the spoilers and stuff, so we'll just have to wait and see.

"From the standpoint of on-track performance and sponsorship, we're pretty fortunate. It would be tought for others in our situation. I think people come and look at what we've got and look at the people we've got and see the potential there. It's up to us to get it out.

"After 10 or 11 years that I've been out of the car... If you had asked me (if I miss it) the year after I quit, I could tell you a bunch, but right now it's so far in my past that I don't pay attention to it. The better the cars run, the more fun I have now.

"Every year it's like everybody's got to have a little bit more money. Workers have to have more money. The motels have to have more money. Everything goes up. From that standpoint, we've got to go up, too. We've got to go talk to sponsors and talk to the tracks. It all escalates accordingly. All we're doing now is handling more money. It's tough right now for big corporate America to cough up the money to do what we want to do. The economy and Sept. 11 and all that stuff combined together, a lot of people are just walking around looking. They'd like to be involved, but the price tag right now, they're going to have to hold the line. It's just like everything else. It's going to cost more for everything. Even if you've got the same people doing the same thing on the same car, it's going to cost you more this year.

"When I first started, I didn't even know these numbers. I didn't know they existed they were so far out there. You operated on $100,000 or $200,000. That was taking in race money, everything put together. Now, that doesn't even get you one race car. Life just costs more to live now than it did 10 or 20 years ago. Whatever money you've got is what you spend and you make it work from there.

"We're head and shoulders above where we were this time last year. We came out last year and we spent all our time just getting four wheels on the car and trying to get the motor to crank up. Now we've had a year's experience and you can pinpoint different areas. You know your weak points so you can work on the weak points. We might not have better results, but we know so much more and we can get better results.

"It (playing field) never has been (level) and it sure ain't this time. I don't think there's any one answer. NASCAR looks at it different than we as racers. NASCAR looks at it like a show. We need to throw the checkered flag at the end of 500 miles and 43 cars need to be running side by side. That's what they're looking for. We want to try to get the edge or get above everybody. A lot of times the way they do things and the way we think don't really add up. This year they've been jacking around with the rules like they do every year. It's going to be good for somebody, and it's going to hurt somebody. There's no way of making it even all the way through.

"If they were running 200 mph and everybody else was running 190, they'd still hang it out. It's a race and everybody is going to do the best they can to get as far up as they can. They're not going to wait until Sunday to do their best. They're going to do their best as they go along. There's a bunch of them out there that's got to make it during the race Thursday. I don't think anybody is going to go out and take a chance, but they're going to run as hard as they can. You can see that when they go out to practice. They run into each other and they don't mean to. They're really being careful when they go out in practice. They know everybody is trying to get their car setup.

"When the race starts everybody knows they've got to make it to the end of the race no matter where they're at. Hopefully they won't have the wreck of the week. In the Thursday races, you've just got half the people. You'll see the race separated a little more. You'll see one pack and another pack like they did in the Shootout last Sunday. If all the cars are out there, you're going to have a pack in the middle of those two packs to keep everybody together. It'll take longer to separate them in the big race than it will in the 125 milers.

"These old guys that are going away, they carried the sport when the old guys went away before them. You've still got 43 cars out there. You've just got different names trying them. Hopefully it's always that way. When my dad retired, I came along. When I retired, Kyle came along. Your generations come along. They just put different names and different personalities with the cars.

"There's a different curve today. Used to, there were only five or six good race cars and you had to work your way into those race cars. Now, the way the rules and money and the way the teams are, they're getting guys who started driving cars when they were five years old. That didn't happen when we came along. Ricky Rudd was a go-kart champion, and he came into Winston Cup and had to work his way in. Now, you've got these people who have a couple of cars and have to look toward the future, and they'll gamble on who comes in. Half of them will hit it and half of them will miss it.

"When you make that choice, you're really gambling, but you're gambling with anybody. That's just the trend of the times right now. Used to you had to work your way up through Busch and ASA and all that. They just take 'em now and cram 'em in a Cup car. Some of them make it and some of them don't.

"Of all the races, this is probably the race where a rookie can do good. If the car is good, they can be good. If the car is not good, then the driver can't carry the car here. It's a new venue to them, but these guys who are rookies have probably got 15 or 20 years of experience driving some kind of race car.

"They'll learn drafting a little at a time on some of the other tracks. When I came here when I was 21 years old, it was the first time I'd ever been on a superspeedway. I hadn't run but eight or 10 races, but these guys coming in now start in go-karts and run midgets and other stuff. It's just another step in their career."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Richard Petty