How do you feel
about this weekend?
I feel good. Every time we go to a place, no matter where
we’re going to, I leave the house feeling like I have a
chance of sitting on the pole and winning the race. That
would be a big turn for us. Our season hasn’t gone like that
at all, but we’re getting our cars better and our engines
better. We’ve been qualifying good the last couple of weeks
although we haven’t been racing very good. We’re working
really hard, especially all the guys at Petty Enterprises.
It’s been fun to see all that stuff get better. The cars are
getting better and the fab shop has worked really hard.
They’re really behind me as a driver – as much as any team
I’ve ever been with. That makes me excited and it makes me
want to go back to the racetrack. I’m looking forward to it.
What does it take to get over the hurdle and start
qualifying better and winning races?
I think one, we’ve got to work on our cars to get them
handling better for the long runs. I think our big holdup
now is our motor program. The guys are turning more RPMs on
other teams than with the package that we have and the guys
are working really hard to try to get our motors better
where we can turn more RPMs. I think that’s what shows
during the race is when the tires start falling off you
start getting down lower in RPMs. Those guys who are running
more gear than I am, it really shows on their car in the
race. I think that’s our biggest hurdle we’ve got to get
over and once we do that we’ll be able to race better.
How is NASCAR’s credibility on scoring and timing?
I think they have three or four options for scoring and
timing – they’ve got hand scoring, they’ve got timing and
scoring off the computer and they’ve got TV that can help
them with that. I don’t know what went wrong the other day,
but I do know that Ryan Newman hit the cones and knocked
them away from where they are supposed to be. But there
wasn’t anything on the racetrack and to throw a caution in
the middle of a green flag stop? Why not let things cycle
through a couple more laps to get everybody on pit road and
off? It put a lot of people a lap down and the end result
caused that wreck. To put people laps down -- people lose
their mind because of it.
These days with computers and timing and scoring the way
we’ve got them, I see there’s just no reason to run 20 laps
under caution to figure out scoring. Something must have
gone wrong that I don’t know about. They usually do a pretty
good job and they are able to get right on it. But you’ve
got 43 cars to take care of, so it’s not just one car
they’re looking at. They’ve got a big chore there but surely
the computers are helping them with that.
Do you feel like some of the races should be shortened?
Races that are long, like the 600, have been that long
forever, and to change that wouldn’t be right, either. I
definitely think some of them are too long – that we’re in
the race cars too long -- but the fans pay really good money
to come watch the races and if that makes them happy, then
that’s the way it should be. I’d like to be in my race car
24/7 so if your day is going good you’re having lots of fun.
That’s kind of a two-part answer there, but for the most
part I don’t think you want to change or reduce what’s
gotten us this far. You don’t want to make the 600 the 500,
I don’t think that would be right.
Is there any way NASCAR can standardize when the cautions
It is easy for us to sit back and call them blind and say
they aren’t doing the right thing. They have a big chore in
front of them when we start a race and to the finish of one.
There are several eyes and several minds calling those
shots, so it’s easy for us to criticize them. When the 12
car hit the pylons and knocked them around there wasn’t
anything on the racetrack that I saw or maybe there was and
I was blind to it. I think some of those cautions could be
called differently, which would make it a lot easier on
everybody. I think that if that had done that the other day,
it would have been easier on them.
Unfortunately, things happen and red flags happen like they
did the other day and that’s going to keep happening. Maybe
that’s bringing fans back, but as a driver, when you’re out
there for three or four hours to get nothing out of it,
that’s pretty perturbing and you’re disgusted over that. I
don’t know, but it’s their circus and their game and we’re
going to play by their rules and try to do the best job with
the rules they give us and hopefully we can come out
victorious one of these days.
Is scoring to blame for more cautions and longer cautions
thrown this season?
I think when they added the “not racing back to the yellow”
rule, that just put a different dimension in it and they
have to do a lot more looking and a lot more investigating
where people were when the caution did fall. From that point
on, I think that was at Dover in the fall, I think the
cautions got longer because of the scoring. The caution is
for a reason, and if they can’t come up with a reason, then
they shouldn’t have thrown it. But things do happen and
we’re all human. The flagman is human, the guy punching the
switch for the lights is human, so stuff is going to be
random and different with each call that they make. The best
thing to do is do the best job we can with what we’ve got to
play with and the resources they have to work with like the
TV cameras and computers and stuff.
I hate cautions as a driver. I don’t think any driver likes
cautions because it just bunches everybody up. It’s a good
time to work on the race car, but for the most part, what
happened the other day more than not is going happen time
after time after time. It’s just going to bunch everybody
What does NASCAR need to learn from last week to prevent the
problems from last week?
I think they need to look at the situation on the racetrack
of whether a caution comes out in the middle of a green flag
run or a green flag stop. That’s what made everything so
confusing – at least in my eyes that’s what happened. It was
the middle of a green flag stop and four or five cars had
stopped and nobody knew that Ryan had spun out on pit road.
I think they need to look at the situation on the racetrack
as far as the other day. He knocked the cones away from the
speed lines. They weren’t on the racetrack – we don’t race
on the apron, we race on the racetrack. For that to bring
the caution out like that, there shouldn’t have been any
problem with running five or 10 more laps, or two or three
more laps, whatever it took to get everybody off of pit road
and get everybody back in sequence. I think that’s the
biggest thing they have to look at. If he had knocked the
cones in the middle of the racetrack and we could see them,
you have to throw the caution. If it’s out of harm’s way,
then let us do our job and not take somebody’s day and turn
it upside down.
What is the impact of the new tires on the team and the
racing in general?
We used to run up against the wall, down on the bottom and
in the middle of the racetrack at a lot of these racetracks
where we go. For some reason, it has taken that groove away
from us. Our team, specifically, the tires wear out more, so
from lap 1 to 75, however long the run is, the pace is going
to slow down more because the tires wear out. In my
situation, everybody has been running more gear and more
gear because the pace slows down so much. We can’t run that
much gear -- as much as other people -- because of our motor
package. We’ve been really working hard to get that turned
around so we can do that. It kind of hurts me in the long
run in a race because of that.
Where did your and your brothers desire to be winners come
I know exactly where it came from. When it rained in
Kentucky, we had gutters out in front of our house. As young
kids, when it would rain we would get popsicle sticks, eat
the popsicle off of them, then take a Sharpie and put
numbers on them and race them down the gutters. From day one
we were competitive with each other, especially growing up
with three boys in one house. My Dad drag raced so we kind
of helped him as we were growing up. I think all that stuff,
when you have that bred into you and you see that day in and
day out, you end up with a competitive nature. I think
that’s where we got it from – my Dad.
What do you think about all the special paint schemes your
team runs and the die-casts and the promotions that go with
I think it’s awesome. The 43 is on the side of the car
year-round but we have different brands that we carry for
General Mills – PopSecret, Berry Burst, things like that to
promote their products. Cheerios is not the only product
that General Mills makes. To promote that for our sponsor is
the best of both worlds. The fans get to see the different
brands out there under the General Mills name. We’re getting
the best of both worlds advertising it, too. As die-cast
have come along, they’ve gotten very nice and they’re so
realistic it’s unreal. And to put it all together with
different die-casts for the special paint schemes is just
another way for fans to be connected and to support the
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