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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pearls of wisdom from Kyle Petty on Danica, retaliation and more

Here are some gems from Kyle Petty, who I talked to this week about his upcoming charity ride for the Victory Junction camp.

Never one to shy away from voicing his opinion, I got Kyle’s views on some of the biggest topics in NASCAR today.

Here they are, straight from his mouth to your ears:

TOPIC: Brad Keselowski vs. the veterans; teaching young drivers a lesson; retaliation
“When I started -- if you go back to Earnhardt and Terry Labonte and Harry Gant in the late 70s -- if somebody did something wrong on the racetrack, the older guys like Petty and Pearson would just talk to them. There wasn’t as much media then. Even up to the time Jeff Gordon started, Dale Earnhardt would take them aside and talk to them if something happened on the racetrack.

“Now that’s not the case. Young drivers are kind of like puppies. They’re going to pee on everything and chew on everything. And they’ll do that until you can break them of that habit. There’s so much media now, it’s hard for them to find their place. They’re reading how good they are because they’re aggressive. There’s not the leadership to step in and put them in their place. In the past, NASCAR never had to step in. The drivers used to do it.

“The retaliation is so blatant now that it almost detracts from the sport. There’s a line. The Gordon vs. Kenseth battle was just racing for the win. Going to the garage for 150 laps and coming out and wrecking someone is just retaliation. There’s not room for retaliation in any sport. It was flagrant, blatant retaliation.”

TOPIC: Danica Patrick’s attempt to break into NASCAR
“Here’s what I said: I’ve seen her drive open-wheel and sports cars. She is a very capable driver. She’s coming to the NASCAR series, I look at Tony and Montoya and Hornish when they came over. I look at Franchitti and Villeneuve, who came over and really struggled with NASCAR.

“My point was: Their resume is twice what Danica’s resume is. You’ve got JPM who’s won Indy, Formula 1 races, who struggled and just now hit his stride. It’s going to be hard for her to come over and be competitive. The public expected her to compete immediately.

“She did a great job in the ARCA race in Daytona. Then she jumped into the deep end of the pool in the Nationwide race. That’s a big jump. She did a good job at Daytona. She struggled at California, and got better as the race went on. And she had some trouble at Vegas. But she’s got crap finishes to show for it. There’s a lot more hype than substance right now.

“Everyone sees the GoDaddy commercials and says she’s just using being a woman to get sponsors, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Race car drivers will use anything they have to get money to race. No one said anything when Carl Edwards took his shirt off for a magazine cover.

“Give her a chance, but there’s a lot more hype now than substance. A limited schedule is one of the hardest things to do. Give her time, but back off from the hype.”

TOPIC: Is NASCAR listening more to fans?
“It’s easy to be a dictatorship, and our sport is helped by having a dictatorship. We have so many owners and drivers and outside sources, it’s good to have a leader who will stand by their decisions.

“But when they start losing money, they’ll start asking, ‘What do you think?’ People are going to fewer races. What NASCAR is trying to do is step back and see what the fans have to say. They are the ones who are paying, they’re the ones buying the product. They’ve done a good job opening it up.

“This year is one of the strongest products on the racetrack, because of things like the new green-white-checkered rule.”

TOPIC: Jimmie Johnson’s domination
“Sometimes I think, ‘These guys are so much better than everyone else. … then I see them at Martinsville and think they can be beat. Right now, they are the cream of the crop. They are the best at Hendrick, which is the best of the rest of racing.

“Roush and Childress have stepped it up this year. When I really look at it, the Hendrick group is far and away the best group. To win four titles, he’s incredibly underrated. He’s not getting the credit while he’s doing it. He’ll go down in history as one of the greatest.

“I’d like to say someone else is going to beat them, but I don’t think anyone is close enough to beat them. They might have to beat themselves.”

TOPIC: Hamlin’s injury, and how it will affect his run for the title
“It’s very painful. Denny did an incredible drive at Martinsville to drive through that pain.

“In 91-92 I had a compound fracture in my left femur, and it was a year before I got where it was no pain. It’s been a distraction for Denny.

“They weren’t winning the title with two good legs, how’s he going to win with one bad one?”


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