KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Christian Fittipaldi practiced the No. 45 Georgia Pacific Dodge Saturday morning. Petty said he will decide Sunday morning if he'll drive Sunday or turn it over to Fittipaldi. "If I can...
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Christian Fittipaldi practiced the No. 45 Georgia Pacific Dodge Saturday morning. Petty said he will decide Sunday morning if he'll drive Sunday or turn it over to Fittipaldi.
"If I can get out of bed Sunday morning quick, I'll know it's time to go. If I get out of bed slow, I'll know it ain't going to be the time. I got out of the bed real slow this morning.
"Christian is running the car today. I was hurting real bad yesterday. He'll run today, and if I don't feel like running tomorrow, he'll run tomorrow. That's how simple it is. I wouldn't have wanted to, but I could have raced today. I'm trying to look down the road. You've got Talladega and then you've got Martinsville. If you've got to give up a race to get healed up, this might be it. Christian will do good here. Christian could do good at Talladega. I think Martinsville would be a struggle for him because he's never been to a place like that, ever. That's not a knock on him or anything, but he didn't grow up running half-mile dirt rings. That's a little bit different, so I've got to be ready by the time we get to Martinsville.
"You'd think Talladega would be easy, but who knows? I didn't think this place would be as hard because it's such a smooth race track. The thing is you run so fast, and you run so fast through the corners. It just pulls a lot on you. It stretches you a lot more than you think it would. It just made me sorer than I thought. I went last night, and evidently I've got a couple of cracked ribs, and I didn't know about that until yesterday.
"I'm sore, and I've been cleared to race, but I'm too sore right now. Even though the doctors cleared me, mentally I can't clear myself. I tried yesterday. It just took my breath. The guy wrapped me right before qualifying, and I couldn't hardly breathe when I got through qualifying. I was just sore. I ran a lot of practice laps. I ran a lot more than I wanted to. When we unloaded we were pretty decent, and even at the end of practice we were 12th or 13th. We felt like we could qualify pretty good, and then when I went to qualify it hurt so bad. We still ended up OK. We got in the race, and that's the main thing.
"This is first time Christian has been in a Cup car since Daytona, and he got up to speed pretty quick. We were looking at the speed chart and he ran within two tenths of John (Andretti), so that's pretty good. He got up to speed really quick, and that was really good. It's tough to be out of a car for a couple of months and then get back in it. It's even tough when you've never raced these type of cars. He's an open wheel guy. To have never raced them and then jump in 'em, I thought he did a really good job in the first practice. Now we're just going to fine tune it for him. Texas is more in line with some of the tracks he ran on the CART series. Martinsville, obviously he's run nothing like that. To bring him here is better than a Martinsville or Bristol or a place like that. That would have been a little hectic.
"I run a carbon fiber seat, and we just changed inserts. He likes the pedals in a little different place, so we adjusted the pedals to a different height off the floor and that was about it. It's pretty simple. With the carbon fiber seat, it's a lot simpler to change from one driver to the other. Technically, John Andretti could drive the same car I drive with the carbon fiber seat because all we have to do is pull my insert out and put his insert in and adjust the belts and he's done. That's how one driver can fit in the cocoon like you're supposed to. The seat did a good job. I told Ricky Craven thank you for all the development work he did on it, and all the effort Cal Wells put into it because it's a good seat.
"I don't remember being knocked out at Bristol, but it knocked the breath out of me. I remember coming off turn four and looking down and the 22 car got spun. I thought he was going to hit the inside wall and ricochet straight. He came off at a different angle. When I got up I tightened up. I knew he was coming back across. I didn't know if he was going to hit me or not. He hit me in the left rear and then I spun around and slapped the wall. I remember sliding down the race track and I was still kind of bracing, thinking I may get hit again. By the time the rescue squad got there, I was out of breath and I just couldn't talk to them. They said I was a little incoherent, and I probably was because I was sucking wind. It's not been a concussion issue or a head issue, even though I did hit hard.
"If we had asked Richard (father Petty) to get in the car and practice it, he would have been on the plane headed back to North Carolina probably.
"We're trying to build Petty Enterprises. Christian is somebody we've tagged to help us build back. This gives us an opportunity to take a look at him and it gives him an opportunity to drive. It also gives me an opportunity to get better. You'd like to have a point system that worked so you didn't have to worry about it, but we're not going to worry about that.
"We were sixth at Bristol and got spun out and dropped back to 12th and then we'd worked back up to the top 10 when the accident happened. We were OK. We felt like we had a top 10 car. I won't say we turned the corner or anything, but that was one of our better races. We've struggled like a lot of the Dodge teams have on the big tracks. That's why I really wanted to drive here because we went to Kentucky and we felt like we got a little better handle on where we need to be. We're not there yet, but we're getting there. If John or Christian can run consistent here and put together a full race, then we'll feel like we've made some gains.
"When you only run a race track once a year, it's hard to tell if things have changed. If the speeds get slower, is it because the race track got slower or is it because the body locations are different, is it because they're harder on templates this year, is it because Goodyear came with a different tire, what is it? Unless we came with the same car every year, then you could start looking at the race track.
"I think Christian is caught in a whirlwind right now. After yesterday, I don't think he thought I was going to get out of the car. After I showed up and couldn't hardly breathe and still got in it, I don't think he thought I was going to get out. After I came in this morning, I don't think he planned to get in it today, but he did and he did a good job for us."