Petty encouraged heading to historic racetrack
Updated: Wednesday August 08, 2001 11:40 PM
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyle Petty is himself again.
A little more than a year after losing 19-year-old son Adam in a racing accident and mired in one of the worst seasons in the 50-year history of Petty Enterprises, Petty comes to Indianapolis for this weekend's Brickyard 400 insisting his team is just a tweak away from winning races again.
Petty took over the day-to-day running of Petty Enterprises a few years ago as his father, Richard, eased into more of an advisory role.
Kyle often joked that Adam was the son Richard never had, a young man totally consumed with racing, just like his famous grandfather. For Kyle, whose interests as a younger man went to music and other pursuits beyond the racetrack, the job was to get Petty Enterprises ready for the day when the prince would succeed The King.
That task was cut short by the death of his son, and he has found a new reason to keep going in the challenge of rebuilding an operation from the ground up.
"We did not have a foundation at Petty Enterprises," he said. "The philosophy on how we approach everything has totally changed. We got behind and compounded the problems by what we did when we were behind.
"We looked at it and said, 'Here's a company that's been in business for 50 years and lately we've been racing the way we did 50 years ago,'" he told The Indianapolis Star. "There's not many teams that have been to the top, to the bottom and back to the top again. That's what we're doing, trying to climb the mountain again."
It's going to be a steep climb. The three Petty Enterprises drivers -- Petty, John Andretti and Buckshot Jones -- have missed a combined 11 races, including seven by Petty, and have just two top-10 finishes in a combined 49 starts.
Andretti, in his fourth season with the Petty team, has been the subject of rumors that he might be looking elsewhere. He doesn't deny being frustrated but said he's not going anywhere.
"I believe in the people I'm working with," Andretti said. "It's not like everybody is sitting around hoping things get better. If nothing was being done, then maybe there would be more to those rumors."
Among the things being done, Petty hired Larry McReynolds as a consultant. On leave from FOX after NBC took over the TV broadcasts for the second half of the season, McReynolds brings the experience of more than 20 years as a crew chief for the likes of Davey Allison, Ernie Irvan and Dale Earnhardt.
McReynolds is working primarily with Jones, a rookie, but also is providing an overview.
"It would have been easy to go with a team that is winning races," he said, "but it'll be a more rewarding deal to work with a team that is not running at the front and see if I can help.
"Can I single-handedly get them to the front? No. But at the end of the day, if I feel like I made a difference, I will have accomplished what I set out to do."
Petty, 41, winner of eight races but none since 1995, said he hasn't considered giving up driving even though the responsibility of 180 employees weighs heavily. He's convinced he can accelerate the team's turnaround from the cockpit.
"If I get in the car and it's junk, I don't have to wait for John Andretti to call me on Monday morning and tell me," he said. "It gives me more confidence in John Andretti and Buckshot Jones knowing what they're up against."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.