2005 NASCAR Media Tour
The 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup Media Tour hosted
by Lowe’s Motor Speedway rolled on Wednesday, featuring shop
visits to the Wood Brothers, Robert Yates Racing and Dale
Petty Enterprises started things off on Day Three with an
early morning press conference at the University Hilton with
team owner and seven-time champion Richard Petty and Jeff
Green, driver of the no. 43 Cheerio’s Dodge.
2004 was another trying season for the Pettys. Once the
most dominate team in the 1960’s and 70’s, Petty Enterprises
has not fielded a winning car since 1999. Drivers Jeff Green
and Kyle Petty finished 32nd and 35th in points,
respectively, with Green notching PE’s only top 10 finish.
A visit with King Richard Petty
All photos by Pete McCole
"We've been struggling for a long time at
Petty Enterprises,” said Petty. “We were struggling when I
was still driving. Petty Enterprises has been up and down
over the years and hopefully we are headed in the right
direction. When you start looking at the things we've been
doing, it's not just one thing, but a lot of different
things that we needed to do differently. The engines needed
to be better, the cars needed to be better and the drivers
needed to be better."
Petty will be utilizing Evernham powerplants for their two
teams this season, that coupled with the introduction of the
new Dodge Charger has given the team a fresh outlook on the
"We all go into the season with high expectations, and we
did the same thing last year. But I think our program is 100
percent better this year than it was last year,” Green said.
“It's just not our new engine program, but everything is
better. We feel like we have as good a chance as anyone. We
think we'll have a top-10 car every week and the rest is up
A visit to Wood Brothers Racing
Next up on the tour was a stop at the Wood
Brothers shop in Mooresville, N.C. where team owners Leonard
Eddie and Len Wood and driver Ricky Rudd reflected on their
In August of last year, Rudd was reunited with crew chief
Michael “Fatback” McSwain, who served as Rudd’s crew chief
for three years at Robert Yates Racing, putting together
three wins, 34 top-fives and 53 top-tens.
After Fatback’s arrival, the team showed some improvement,
posting an average finish of 18.6 over the final 16 races,
included a seasons-best second place finish at Kansas
Speedway. The team will be looking for more of the same in
"I'm really proud of this race team,” said Eddie Wood.
“We're better than we were a year ago and I think we're
going to be really good this year. I think we've got a shot at
the top 10. I'd like to thank Ricky and Fatback for working
together as well as they do. They really click.”
"It's been a long winter,” McSwain said. “Pretty much every
car here has been taken all the way back to the bare frame -
modifications made to the frame, improvements, new bodies,
and we've done a lot of work in a short period of time. We
were real happy with our Daytona test. We ran decent in
qualifying speed, but we were really, really happy with the
way our car was in race trim. We're definitely looking
forward to the next few weeks."
Having competed in the Cup series since 1975, Rudd is one of
the elder statesmen on the circuit. Seeing many of his
fellow veteran drivers beginning to ease out of full-time
competition has led many to wonder when Rudd might finally
hang up his driving shoes.
“I'm taking it one year at a time,” said Rudd. “Obviously, I
won't be here in five or 10 years, but I think I have a
couple more good years in me. With the Yates engine program
and everything that the Wood Brothers have assembled here if
we aren't able to be competitive and run up front this year,
I probably won't be back next year, but if we are
competitive and can make the top 10, you'll probably have to
put up with me a couple more years."
Dale Jarrett address the audience
The tour moved on for a shop visit to Robert Yates
Racing, where drivers Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler drive.
After struggling through the 2003 season with nine DNF’s and
a 22nd-place finish in the points, Sadler showed remarkable
improvement in 2004, scoring two victories. Sadler never
fell below tenth in the point’s standings throughout 2004,
putting together a string of six finishes in the top-15 in
the final eight races starting the Chase for the
Championship in sixth place.
Finishes of 32nd or worse in the final five races put the
brakes on Sadler’s title run, falling to a disappointing
ninth in the final standings.
“It's hard for me to believe that any team could be better
prepared for this season than we are,” Sadler said. “We have
done a really great job of dotting our I's and crossing our
We have brilliant teammates here and Mike Ford and Dale
Jarrett have been testing the new car configuration for
months beginning the last couple months of last season.”
For Jarrett, however, 2004 might well be a season he’d like
The season started off well enough for Jarrett, with the
1999 series champion winning the pre-season Budweiser
Shootout, but his momentum proved fleeting. Although Jarrett
and his no. 88 UPS team did manage to post five finishes of
fourth or better, Jarrett went winless for the first time
An 18-year veteran of the Cup series, Jarrett was also asked
if retirement was in his immediate future.
“I've given it a lot of thought and I've seen a lot of the
guys my age getting ready to retire, but they started
earlier than I did, so I am going to stay at it a little
longer,” Jarrett said. “My contract is for two more years,
but I'd like to stay around a little longer. If Robert and
Doug Yates and UPS would have me back, I think I would look
at racing through probably 2007. I have a minimum of two
years and probably three left."
A visit to DEI
The final stop of the afternoon session was
at the shop of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was
joined by Busch Series Champion Martin Truex, Jr. and DEI
Busch Series driver Paul Menard as they talked about changes
the team has made for the 2005 season.
As NASCAR’s reigning most popular driver and winner of the
Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. seemed the odds-on pick to
win the championship. He entered the Chase third and grabbed
the lead following the race at New Hampshire, but a 25-point
penalty for swearing during his Victory Lane celebration at
Talladega knocked him out of the points lead for good.
Hoping for better results in 2005, the team made some major
changes in the off season, promoting Pete Rondeau to crew
chief of the no. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet.
Rondeau, who called the shots for Earnhardt’s Busch Series
win at Bristol, was crew chief for Michael Waltrip’s #15
NAPA Chevy for the last half of the season. He will be
replaced be Tony Eury, Jr., who previously served as car
chief on the #8.
Earnhardt’s former crew chief Tony Eury, Sr. was promoted to
Director of Competition for DEI, replacing Steve Hmiel, who
moves up to Technical Director for DEI.
“I feel pretty confident about the season,” Earnhardt said.
“I’m really looking forward to going to the early tests at
California and Las Vegas and see how Pete (Rondeau) and I
work together. I’m looking forward to it, it’s something
new, it’s a change of pace for me, and that’s always good.
From the get-go, the changes have been really positive. A
lot of guys in the company were excited about it, but some
questioned ‘why this, why now?’ but everybody seems to be
understanding of the situation. It’s wasn’t just strictly
Truex, Jr., will be looking to repeat as Busch Series
Champion in 2005, as well as running as many as seven Nextel
Cup races in the no. 1 car with sponsorship from Bass Pro
“We’re looking to bring everyone from our Busch Series team up with
us and all move up to Nextel Cup together,” Truex said. “If (DEI)
had a team that was ready for a new driver, then maybe it might be a
good decision to go Cup racing already. We’ll run seven races this
year, get our cars built and learn as much as we can so we can be
prepared when we finally do go Cup racing.”
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