Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes: Ford EcoBoost 400 Advance

Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes:
Ford EcoBoost 400 Advance (Homestead-Miami Speedway)
Friday, November 15, 2013

Richard Petty won seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships during his Hall of Fame career and during a media session this morning at Homestead-Miami Speedway he spoke about the possibility of Jimmie Johnson capturing his sixth title on Sunday.

RICHARD PETTY, Owner, Richard Petty Motorsports – YOU WILL HAVE A NATIONWIDE TEAM NEXT YEAR?  “Yeah, we will have a Nationwide car.”

WOULD RYAN BLANEY BE A REASONABLE ASSUMPTION?  “Everybody’s got an opinion, right (laughing).”

WHO ARE YOU PICKING TO COME OUT AHEAD ON SUNDAY?  “I don’t think there’s really a pick, is there?  (laughing).”

JOHNSON COULD WRECK EARLY OR SOMETHING.  “Not likely.  I think they’ve got all the stars lined up, which it shows most of the year and it’s his year.  About the only thing I see that might take care of it would be one of these sinkholes they have down here.”

IF HE GETS TO SIX CHAMPIONSHIPS EVERYONE IS GOING TO SAY HE’S AFTER PETTY AND EARNHARDT’S RECORD.  “So.”  HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SOMEBODY COMING UP AND TYING THE TWO OF YOU?  “All I can say is Earnhardt did his thing in his time against his competition.  I did mine against my competition and he’s doing his thing against his competition.  We didn’t compete with each other.  In other words, he wasn’t there to race against Richard Petty or Earnhardt, and we didn’t have to race against Jimmie Johnson, either.  You can’t compare.  It’s not apples and apples.  It’s apples and oranges.”

DO YOU THINK IN THIS SITUATION THE 48 IS CAPABLE OF GOING ON AND WINNING EIGHT?  “Yeah.  They’ve shown that in the past.  If you look back and look at how long Petty Enterprises lasted and won championships and won races for a lot of years, right now and from the beginning of racing the Hendrick operation is the only one that’s done that good and lasted that long to compete with what they did with Petty Enterprises.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE DRIVER-CREW CHIEF COMBINATION TO THAT SUCCESS?  “It’s everything.  It’s just like me and Dale Inman.  It was like a one-operation show with two people, so you’ve got to have that.  It doesn’t make any difference if it’s football or baseball or whatever.  In football, if the linemen don’t like the quarterback, they can just get out of the way and let somebody bop him.  This is the kind of a deal that everybody has to be on the same page and it’s not just the crew chief, it’s the whole team from the time they even think about racing to when they get it on the race track.  I guess I always looked at the racing operation is probably the biggest team there is.  In other words, to win a race takes more people than it does to win a football game or a baseball game or any other thing because there are so many people involved.  It’s not just the driver and the crew, it’s everybody that supports that.”

RICHARD PETTY CONTINUED — IF JIMMIE GETS TO EIGHT WOULD YOU FEEL ANY DISAPPOINTMENT?  “No, because he didn’t compete against me.  I did my thing in the seventies and he’s doing his stuff in the teens, so there’s no comparison.  It’s like taking somebody from the Olympics in the year 1900 and comparing them to somebody in the year 2000.  Everything has transferred so much.  Everybody is in better shape – the whole deal.  They’d blow that record away just because of time and records are made to be broken.  About every record that has ever been put up there has been broken or will be broken.”

IS THERE A COMMON PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTIC FOR CHAMPIONS?  “It’s just that they’re winners.  Other than that, I don’t see anything else that puts their personalities in the same vain.  I don’t see my personality being very close to Jimmie’s.  I don’t see it being very close to Earnhardt’s or Waltrip’s.  Everybody was a completely different individual, except in the fate of things they were all winners.”

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW JIMMIE?  “Not very well.  I’ve never really had that much operations around him.  I’ve been around him a little, but nothing on a personal basis, I’ll put it that way.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU SEE FROM HIM ON THE RACE TRACK?  “He’s loaded with talent.  I look at Jimmie sort of like I look back at Richard Petty.  Without the equipment he’s just another driver, so, again, it’s the combination that helps make him and put him up there because without a super-good car and stuff there wouldn’t have been a Richard Petty.  Again, it’s a combination, but Jimmie is pretty good and pretty cool about handling different circumstances, although most of the time he’s handling it from the front, even when he gets in the back he’s very conscious of what’s going on and can race with people without getting over-aggressive.  He knows his ability and he knows the ability of his car, so if he’s having trouble or he’s running and he’s a fifth-place car, then he settles for fifth-place and goes on down the road.”

DOES JIMMIE HAVE YOUR KIND OF RACER IN HIM AS FAR AS CALCULATING AND THINGS LIKE THAT?  “I don’t know what the combination is there.  He knows he’s pretty good.  He knows his car is pretty good, so a lot of times he doesn’t over-push the circumstances to get better than what he knows he’s already got.  Not that he just says, ‘OK, I’m running third, that’s good enough.’  He doesn’t look at it that way, he just doesn’t put himself in a situation where he takes chances.  He won’t take a 50/50 chance, but a 75/25 he’ll take.”

IS THAT A COMMON THREAD WITH YOU AND EARNHARDT?  “No, look at Earnhardt he was 90/10 (laughing).  So, no, in my opinion, in Jimmie’s situation or in some other situations it wasn’t.”

SO IF JIMMIE GOES ON AND WIN SEVEN CHAMPONSHIPS WILL YOU SAY ‘WELCOME TO THE CLUB’?  “Well, more or less.  Right now, it’s seven and seven, then it will be seven, seven, seven and he’s liable to go to eight to 10.  The way the situation is now with what they have together and what the competition has together, if it doesn’t change – if somebody doesn’t get better or worse, it’s gonna continue to be the same thing.”

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE DISCUSSION PEOPLE WILL HAVE ABOUT WHO THE GREATEST DRIVER IS?  “I could care less.  All the people in the history of NASCAR stuff, nobody has ever told you that Richard Petty was a good driver or the best driver.  All I want to be remembered for is I won more than anybody else and as far as I’m concerned whether I could drive or not didn’t make any difference (laughing).”

RICHARD PETTY CONTINUED — IS THIS AS COMPETITIVE OF A TIME FROM TOP TO BOTTOM IN NASCAR THAT THERE HAS EVER BEEN?  “It’s really hard to say.  I really don’t think it’s as competitive as it has been in different eras.  It’s pretty competitive, but if we go back into the mid-seventies or late-sixties or something like that, where we had four teams that could win any one deal.  Right now, we don’t have four different operations, I think, that you could sit down and say, ‘OK, one of these four is gonna win the race.’  We were in a situation back in the day where one of those four people were gonna win the race come hell or high water, and it’s not that way now.”

HOW DO YOU VIEW RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS RIGHT NOW AND WHAT IS THE FOCUS FOR THE OFF-SEASON?  “We’ve got to get a lot better, that’s for sure.  I really thought the team was coming along pretty good until about half, three-quarters of the way through the season and then we just kind of fell off the radar.  That’s partly my fault and that’s our fault as far as a team deal.  We’re gonna start up next year and we’ve got some new faces in our business and organization.  We’re gonna have some new rules.  I don’t know who is gonna jump on that and be able to handle that the best, so that’s our challenge now is to be the best and come out with the latest stuff.  We’re hoping to expand some of our business, too.  All of that being said, we’re in a deal where we’re looking for next year because this year hasn’t been that good.”

HOW IS YOUR OPERATION FROM A FINANCIAL STANDPOINT SINCE THINGS WERE SO TOUGH A FEW YEARS AGO?  “We’re never secure, but we’re in the best financial position since we took the thing back over from Gillett.  We’re way better than we’ve been.  Whether that shows up on the race track or not, we’ll have to wait and see, but we think we can expand some of the stuff we’ve been doing, instead of just staying and doing the same old, same old.  We’re gonna try to expand some of the stuff, maybe a little bit in engineering and a lot more R&D that we have not been doing.  That’s one of our challenges for next year.”

DO YOU HAVE A NATIONWIDE DRIVER ALREADY IDENTIFIED OR ARE YOU STILL LOOKING FOR ONE?  “We’re working on the situation.”

DO YOU HAVE A CREW CHIEF FOR THE 43 NEXT YEAR?  “We think we have.  They’ll be letting me know in a few days (laughing).”

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports, was part of a sponsorship announcement by the organization Friday at Homestead Miami Speedway. The Tampa, Florida, native spoke about his Hispanic heritage and what the organization needs to take the next step forward in 2014.

ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Smithfield Fusion — YOU ARE BECOMING A FACE OF TRYING TO REACH OUT TO THIS HISPANIC COMMUNITY IN THE SPORT, BUT YOU DON’T YET SPEAK SPANISH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT DYNAMIC AND YOUR CHILDHOOD? “My father grew up in Miami and then they moved from Miami to Tampa and my grandmother just didn’t enroll him in school until late and he struggled in school a bit because he didn’t speak English at all and he thought that was part of the reason why he struggled in school. Back then in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s they didn’t have ESL programs or anything to help bilingual students so he really struggled in school growing up as a kid. They had me young. My mom and dad – I think my dad was 21 and my mom was 20 and at that time my dad thought that it was going to be really important for me to learn English. He made it very apparent to my grandparents and everybody to now speak Spanish in front of me. So I grew up as a kid not knowing there was another language. I spoke English. My grandparents spoke broken English to me and I lived in a Latin community and a lot of people spoke Spanish around me but I grew up learning English. That was a choice that my dad and my family made to be able to help me excel in school and it paid off. I got good grades and was a straight-A student growing up but unfortunately I am late to the game learning Spanish. My grandma, my abuela, knows I am learning Spanish and she is really excited about that. We have a lady that comes to the house two days a week to teach us Spanish and I am in the process of learning it.”

CAN YOU HOLD A CONVERSATION YET? “I understand it and that is because I grew up around it. I would go to a restaurant and eat at Cuban restaurants all the time and so there are people around you talking it. My dad and grandparents would speak to each other in Spanish so I have always been around it and have always had an ear for it and understand and hear it. The problem I have is when I want to speak it I have to think about it in English, translate it in my head and try to regurgitate it in Spanish. That is a challenge. It doesn’t come naturally off the tongue for me. Listening to it and understanding it is not my problem.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THOUGH FOR YOU TO BE GENUINE WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO ATTRACT THE HISPANIC COMMUNITY TO NASCAR? “I think it is very important from that aspect but the one thing that I have learned out of going to all of the networks like Univision, Telemundo, Fox Deportes and all these different networks, the thing is that the market we are trying to reach and engage now is what the networks are calling the millennial Hispanic. It is young kids that are growing up in America now in Hispanic families. They all know English. That is the beauty of it. I still want to learn Spanish and am devoting a lot of time to learn Spanish but at the end of the day people can connect with my story. The kids growing up in our country today that are Hispanic and live in Hispanic communities or with Hispanic families, their parents and grandparents are the ones that come over from Mexico or Brazil or Argentina or Cuba or wherever and now they are growing up in America and learning English and speak English and relate to my story. I am a first generation born American citizen on my dad’s side of the family and I know English. It took my dad 15 years before he fluently spoke English. I think a lot of the kids and a lot of the kids my age and even younger that live in Hispanic communities relate to my story.”

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED — AND YOUR KIDS? ARE YOU MAKING THEM BILINGUAL? “The lady that comes and speaks with us is helping us and we are obviously speaking to Alex in Spanish. We talk about things like la puerta, the door. The windows, things like that we will say words to him. We don’t carry on a conversation with him and he doesn’t speak back even in English yet because he is only one but we do see the importance and want our kids to be bilingual.”

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THE HISPANIC COMMUNITY IN TAMPA? “The food. I miss the food so much. As soon as I get off the airplane in Tampa or here in Miami the first thing I do is go eat. Obviously I miss my family but second to my family I miss the food. I don’t know how many people have eaten Cuban or Hispanic food but when you do you want it again and again. To live in Charlotte, North Carolina, you don’t really get a lot of Cuban food up there.  There is one place down actually in Charlotte called A Taste of Havana that is a really good Cuban restaurant but besides that it is really hard to find.”

GETTING SPONSORS LIKE YOU ANNOUNCED TODAY IS A BIG PART OF IT BUT WHAT ARE THE THINGS YOU GUYS NEED TO WORK ON IN THE OFFSEASON TO TAKE THAT NEXT STEP NEXT YEAR? “I think just from the technical aspect, we need to work on that. We need to get the engineering focus bar raised and the people is not our problem, we have a lot of great people and hard workers and a lot of guys that are just hard core racers, so that is not our problem. The technical aspect and brain power if you will to come up with new ways to keep up with the times as far as the setups on the cars to make them faster.”

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