(DOES HE EXPECT WILD, FOUR-ABREAST RACING ON SUNDAY?) "That's what has been going on down here for the last eight or 10 years, so why would you expect anything different?" (ON THE SMALLER RESTRICTOR PLATE BEING USED THIS WEEKEND) "A lot has...
(DOES HE EXPECT WILD, FOUR-ABREAST RACING ON SUNDAY?)
"That's what has been going on down here for the last eight or 10 years, so why would you expect anything different?"
(ON THE SMALLER RESTRICTOR PLATE BEING USED THIS WEEKEND)
"A lot has been made so far about going to the smaller plate. The thing is they slow everybody down the same. It's not like it takes 20 horsepower out of one car and two horsepower out of another. If I'm out there and I'm running 190 (miles per hour) with a 15/16ths (inch) plate, and somebody else is running 188 (miles per hour), then now with this plate I'm out there running 188 and the other guy is running 186. It all goes in unison together. They didn't hurt any one guy more than they hurt the other guy. So if we saw packs in the past of 35 or 40 cars three and four wide with a 15/16ths plate, I can't see that it is going to be any different with a 7/8ths plate or anything else. Practice has been the same that it has always been. They are three and four wide. They are high, they are low, they are switching. It's not really changed a lot. I think going back to the front shock rule and letting us have our front shocks back has made the cars drive a lot better here than what they drove at Daytona, so I think you are better there. But other than that, I don't think the motor comes into effect as far as the three and four wide part of it."
(HAS THE TEAM WORKED OUT ITS ENGINE PROBLEMS YET?)
"I would say no, just to be honest with you. This is a restrictor plate motor. We're running the same stuff here that we ran at Daytona. We weren't great at Daytona, but we weren't as bad at Daytona as what we were when we got to Rockingham or when we got to some of the other racetracks. We're struggling with our engine department and we know it, and the guys are working really hard to get us back on track. The one good thing we're doing is we're not breaking a lot of engines. But the guys are struggling, but they are working incredibly hard. They went to Richmond. They had a good test this week with some different combinations. But when you start a year and you start down a road and you say, 'These are good horsepower numbers, these are good torque numbers,' and you start to build (engines) to try to get ahead, and all of a sudden you realize that even though they are good horsepower numbers and they are good torque numbers, they don't run on the racetrack, then everything that you got ahead on, you've got to back up and that's no good anymore. So all the stuff we thought we were ahead on when the season started is not good for us anymore. Now we've got to take those engines apart. We've got to re-do those heads. They've got to re-do new heads. They've got to come up with different programs for the CNC machines and stuff. It's put us in a little bit of a bind."
(ON JOHN ANDRETTI)
"John is the greatest teammate you could ever ask for. I'm going to tell you that. And I don't know if it's because all the other drivers that drive for Petty Enterprises, if their last name is Petty, if that has something to do with it. But John works to make us better. John doesn't see it as, 'The 43 is my team and the 44 is Kyle's team, and I'm racing the 44.' He understands what we do at Petty Enterprises is to make Petty Enterprises better, and if we can make Petty Enterprises better, it makes John better. Has he shared any frustration? No. Is he frustrated? If he is not he shouldn't be a race car driver. I know he is frustrated. That's my point. By me out there driving a car I know John is frustrated with some of the things that have gone on. I know John was hurt from a personal standpoint and felt abandoned when Robbie (Looms) just left in December. I know that was a big shock to him. I think he has been frustrated about stuff. But has he shared it with me? No. Does he share it with his wife? Yeah, I'm sure he does."
(DOES HE HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN BEING A DRIVER AND RUNNING PETTY ENTERPRISES?)
"Do you have to choose? No. Should you choose? Yeah. I'll give you that. But you don't have to. I look at a lot of multi-car teams out there, and yeah, it's hard. You look at Ricky (Rudd) as a single car team, running everything, and he finally said, 'I can't do it.' I think the difference between Ricky saying he couldn't do it or somebody else saying they couldn't do it is that they haven't been in business 50 years. This is all we do. All we do is have race cars. Is it too much? It may be. Should I choose? Maybe I should. Am I going to be a hard-head about it and keep hammering along? Yeah I am because that's what my grand-daddy did and that's what my daddy did and that's what I'm going to do. You're just going to keep hammering at it until you get it fixed or until you get to a point where you 'age-out' and then, yeah, you have to choose. I guess that's kind of the way I look at it. I'm going to keep hammering along doing to same thing I've been doing until age catches up with me or until I'm forced to, or until I run out of sponsors or whatever. That's the way I look at it. But it's tough. Two-car teams are hard enough. By having a truck series team - that's not that bad because that is a totally different series. And having a Busch deal is not that bad because it's totally different. They are not right here. But when we get to a point where we have three Winston Cup cars here, I think it will be a little bit tougher. "I compare teams to kids. When Adam was born, everybody in the world wanted to baby-sit him. You could set him out in your front yard, set a sign beside him and people would stop by and want to baby-sit him. Then Austin came along and it cut down. Nobody wanted to baby-sit two except your family. And then you get three and you don't have any family anymore because nobody wants to baby-sit. I look at it like that with race cars. A one-car team you can look after. Two-car teams, it cuts down to straight-family. Three-car teams, nobody even wants to talk to you anymore. It's hard to make three teams work. I'm probably going to make some people mad but I haven't seen people make anything other than two-car teams work. I just haven't - not on the racetrack. From a financial point-of-view they make it work. But from a success rate on the racetrack with multiple cars more than two, I just haven't seen anybody make it work yet."
(WHEN WAS THE TORCH PASSED FROM RICHARD PETTY TO HIM?)
"We have operations meetings the second Tuesday of every month. I think when he quit showing up, we all realized he wasn't going to show up anymore. When he quit showing up and telling us what to do we kind of said, 'OK, now who's going to do it?' We passed it around the table two or three times before it finally ended back with me. But that was kind of it. He finally just said, 'I'm at an age and your mother is at an age, we've got a house in Wyoming, we've got nine grandkids.' They like to take the grandkids and go on trips and do stuff. It's just like coming here. He doesn't have to come here. He doesn't have to go to Bristol, he doesn't have to go to Charlotte, he doesn't have to do this anymore. He's going to come through here probably Sunday, and he and my mother are going to go to Wyoming, and then they'll fly from Wyoming to California, so they are going to be gone the next week to 10 days. He doesn't have to do this anymore. Being on the road is hard. But he has been doing it from the time he was eight years old. I've done it from the time I was four or five years old, traveling with those guys, so it's all we know. But finally he has gotten to a point in his career where he wants to know something different, so he doesn't have to come. Because of that he finally just said, 'OK, I'm not showing up. You do it.'
(ON THE PASSING OF HIS GRANDFATHER)
"I think the reaction from fans has been pretty phenomenal. My grandfather didn't come around a lot because he never thought of himself as anything but Lee Petty, who just happened to drive a race car and put food on the table. You always hear the story of my grandfather when my father won the first race, and my grandfather protested. But the reason he protested was because he had a late model car, and the race paid a couple hundred dollars more for the late model car to win than it did for my father's car to win the race. So the family and the group made a couple hundred dollars more. And that's what it was all about to him was putting food on the table and looking after my grandmother and looking after my uncle and my father. So for him it was all about money. That's why when he wrecked and he came back, and looked at my uncle and my father and said, 'Oh, they are doing a good job. They are providing for the family now. I don't have to provide anymore for everybody. I don't have to carry it.' So he stepped away a little bit from the driving part, but looked after that part of it. "He didn't care about this. Once he walked away, he just walked away. He didn't care about this part of it. He didn't care about all the hoopla and all the stuff that went on when NASCAR had their 50th (anniversary). If they didn't' call him it didn't bother him. If they called him he just said, 'No.' That probably made him feel good to be able to tell them no. "He went in the hospital in February. He had an aneurysm that was laying close to his kidneys and at his stomach. The surgery went incredibly well, but he really never recovered after that. He had a little infection. Then he got a little bit of a cold. Then one thing led to another, and he was 86 years old. That's why when we did the press thing with Adam at Texas (Motor Speedway) and somebody asked the question about my father coming and I said, 'No, that my grandfather was sick and he would probably be staying at home.' That why I kind of broached it with you guys then because it was coming and we all knew that it was coming at that point in time. I think it has been incredibly hard on my father, and on my uncle and on my grandmother. I really do. For us personally, then it's been hard on us from a family point-of-view. I've seen my father in 10 million different situations in his lifetime, from laying in a hospital bed to standing on top of a car in the Daytona 500 victory lane, so you've had the peaks and you've seen the valleys. But I don't think I've ever seen him this emotional about anything. You've got to remember at an early age their house burned down, my uncle had polio, they spent months and months at a hospital together as a family, my grandfather wrecked and they spent months together as a family in a hospital. They had been through a lot together. I think that bond that those four people had was an incredible bond. I think all families are that way to some degree. But for this family it just seemed to be a lot more intense. And I think it's been hard for them to adjust to him not being there. I know it's been hard for the guys at our race shop because my grandfather would shuffle through on a Monday morning, or sometimes on a Tuesday or Wednesday and tell everybody, 'Here is where you messed up on Sunday. Here's what went wrong. Here's what you should have done.' Just different things like that. So I think he has been missed a lot in the last couple of weeks. "But I think for us on a personal basis, it's been pretty hard on us. The one things that has helped is the outpouring from the fans. My grandmother has been amazed by the amount because she doesn't come anymore. She doesn't realize there are 250,000 people sitting in the grandstands. She doesn't understand that part of it because she doesn't pay any attention to it. That's been a big factor for her to know that there are that many people out there than knew who Lee Petty was and what he had done."