The offseason has been an active one for Richard Petty and Petty Enterprises. For the first time since Lee Petty started the team in the late 1940s, Petty Enterprises is now based from a location other than Level Cross, North Carolina. During the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway, Richard spoke at length about the move, about NASCAR, and about Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s move to Hendrick Motorsports, among other topics. Larry Cothren, editor of Stock Car Racing, was among a group of media members who interviewed the King, whose 200 wins as a driver are the most in NASCAR history. Here's an edited version of that interview.
If you go back four or five years to where we were at when we first started with the Dodge deal to where we're at right now, we're about halfway to where we need to be. On a scale of 10, we're at a five right now. If we can gain a one every year, then in three or four years we'll be where we need to be. Naturally, we're optimistic and say we're going to do it this year or going to do it next year, but we'll do it as quick as we can under the circumstances we've got to work with.
Well, it's hard emotionally. It's not hard physically from the standpoint that common sense says, OK, this is what you've got to do. I look at it from the emotion side, I look at it from the common sense side, I look at it from the future deal, then it's a no-decision deal-you've got to do it. Finally, I just sat down one day and said, OK, we're going to do it. Like Kyle said, he's been working on me, Robbie has been working on me, Bobby has been working on me, and even some of the guys in the shop said we need to get more where the action is at. Again, we've been looking at it for three or four years and, finally, this particular deal with Robert moving out of here, gave us the opportunity to do it a little bit quicker than what I had on my cheat sheet. We told you last spring that in a couple or three years we definitely were going to move. This just brought it that much quicker, which is that much better because it put us probably a year ahead of what our schedule was.
Every time I go in there, I dream-dream about seeing all the cars in there, even seeing my dad's car in there, or Kyle's car in there, or Adam's car or my car. You look at all that stuff that is there and you know it is reality and you have to accept reality. After (late January) it'll be an empty shop and then we'll figure out what we've got to do to fill it up. Whether we'll put a museum there or more cars in there-I don't know yet. But the main deal from Petty Enterprises-Level Cross and Petty Enterprises-was to get all the people and all the equipment (to Mooresville) so we could go into the new season. Like Kyle said, the shop is full of last year's cars, of 10 years ago cars and pieces, so we've got to clean all that stuff up and start a new era with Petty Enterprises of Level Cross.
I had anticipated it. I had built myself into a deal where it wasn't a sudden shock because I didn't just do it in one day. I had to put some deals together, talk to some people, and get us a game plan. So the game plan was number one, we do this, then we do the next step, and so on, so it made it a lot easier.
You know, we had never opened up the shop, per se. We have a fence around it, keep the gate locked. And people come up and take pictures of it and stuff like that, and they'll still do that. But they couldn't see what was inside. So now the doors are shut and they don't know if there is anything inside or not. We didn't change that part.
I drove for (Mike) Curb and he had a shop in Kannapolis, (North Carolina). I drove down there at least one time a day. I may have been there an hour or maybe all day, just depending on the circumstance. I've got to split my time now between my businesses in Level Cross and by business here. It's not a deal where I'm going to stay in Level Cross and let Kyle and Robbie and them run this place. I'm going to be over here too.