The King and his driver discuss their new Indy 500 venture with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing via a teleconference.
Q: Richard, obviously you remember A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti both had a pretty good session in NASCAR driving stock cars down in your country, yet I wondered if you ever had the inclination to say, ŒIf you can come over and drive stock cars, why don't I jump into an open-wheel car and try Indianapolis?‚ Did you ever get to that point yourself?
RICHARD PETTY: My career never crossed over. You got to figure that we were in the stock cars, and we owned our own cars. We didn't have big sponsors and stuff. That was our business.
So I never ventured out to run Indy. I always kept up with what was going on, but as far as being able to go to the race and stuff, last year was the first time John invited me up. Last year was the first time I was ever here when they threw the flag at a 500. That was very impressive. Made it easier for him to talk about bringing me back in this year.
Q: Richard, can you talk about how this deal came about? Did John approach you about it? Also, would you have done it for any driver? You seem to think a whole lot of John. He drove for you. Would you have done it for anybody else at Indy? Do you actually own the car or is this pretty much fully funded by the sponsors?
PETTY: John, like he said, he was the second-longest driver we had in the 43 car. He had approached me sometime last year before the race, and we just never could put anything together. And, as you know, over last winter and this winter we done a bunch of changing at Petty Enterprises. It's now Richard Petty Motorsports. That let me look at some more things once we had partners in our business there.
So when John approached me on this deal, then we got Window World, a bunch of North Wilkesboro boys, that made it that much more icing on the cake, I guess. Then they wanted to paint it red and blue and put a big 43 on it. They just kept doing things and running at me. I finally said, “Yeah, let's just give it a try and see.”
From that standpoint, we are vested in what's going on, OK? I'll put it that way. Because it's not just a publicity stunt, like I told you. We're up here; we're serious with this deal. We've got a good car. We've got a good crew that's capable of doing what we need to do with it.
It's going to be up to John now. We just gonna turn him loose with it.
Q: Richard, how many days in May will you spend at the Speedway? Are you planning to stay for the duration of the 500 or will you leave early to go to Charlotte for the 600?
PETTY: I will definitely be here for qualifying day. I'd like to spend another couple days up here, according to what my schedule is. You know, I told them a while ago, according to how good John's doing, if he's leading, I ain't leaving, OK? I guess I really come to see the race. I come to be involved with our car, Richard Petty Motorsports car.
From that standpoint, we're gonna be here as long as John is, OK? Then I think they can probably start the 600 without me. I just wouldn't want them.
Q: Richard, Dreyer & Reinbold handling the preparation and everything of the car, but are you going to kind of get your hands in it some, see what it's all about? Might you take part in decision making on pit road race day and also during qualifications and everything?
PETTY: I'm gonna tell you, I'm not doing too good a job with my stock cars, so I don't think they're looking for my expertise in the Indy cars, OK? I'm just here to observe and learn, really. I'm interested. I've always been interested in the mechanism of an Indy car over a stock car, so more delicate and all this kind of stuff.
The mechanical part I'm dead interested in, but I don't understand it. So I come to learn a lot.
Q: John, could you tell us the story of how this all came together, from your perspective?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Well, actually when I was thinking – I was actually talking to Robbie Loomis. I said, “It would be good if I get Richard up here to experience what I experience up here.” The Indianapolis 500 is so different than most other races I've ever been a part of, especially for me because of my family history.
They took me up on it. With a lot of people's help, we got Richard here. Actually, Richard came up on his own plane, brought Dale Inman with him, Robbie Loomis, Brian Moffitt. It was Race Day. Wherever Richard went, you knew where he was at. There was a lot of people.
It was a pretty unique day. I think that was one of those things where Richard said earlier, you can talk about it, you can show him pictures, but to see it firsthand is what probably tripped the whole trigger, to kind of get me to be able to say, “Why don't we do this together?”
I would say it's been some time, and we talked about it even when I drove the 43. We were busy racing down in Charlotte, doing those things, I kept talking about Indianapolis. Although I don't think they wanted to hear as much about it then when I was driving for them as now. I think it's one of those things that's natural because I spent a lot of time at Petty Enterprises, have a huge amount of respect for the family, and consider them like they're part of our family. I hope they do the same with us.
But I wouldn't think, you know – I would hope that nobody else could come and jump in the 43 for the first time up here, other than Richard. He said he wouldn't do it, so I gladly stepped in for that spot.
Q: Richard, when you went to the race, to the 500 for the first time last year, you've been to a lot of big races in your life, what was it about that race or that place that left an impression with you? What was your impression when you left?
PETTY: Used to listen to the race on radio when I was a kid. Anyhow, we always was able to watch the race because we was at Charlotte. Up in the condo, we was able to watch the race, then wait for our race.
You see all the hullabaloo that goes on to begin with, all the people wandering up and down pit road, singing, “Back Home in Indiana,” all that. It was really everything I expected it to be. So I was impressed with that. A lot of times you build things up, and once you go to them you're kind of disappointed because maybe you set your standard too high for that event. But this one covered everything that I ever thought about.
So, you know, it was so impressive just to be here and just see the beginning of the race, with all the balloons, the whole deal. So I think I got kind of caught up in it. That was one of John's initial deals. He figured if he could get me here, get me all excited in what I seen, then maybe he could talk me into being involved. Basically that's what happened.
Q: John, last year you did this race working with Canada's Marty Roth. Now you go into this new endeavor with Richard, working with the Dreyer & Reinbold people. Has to be a complete contrast. The Dreyer & Reinbold people must have much better equipment, better resources. You have to be looking forward to that aspect of it.
ANDRETTI: Looking to a lot of different things. Dreyer & Reinbold brings a lot more experience. They've been in the series since the inception of the IRL. They've won the series. They've done a lot of development work and continue to do development work like any quality race team.
So, yeah, it is different. And also I'm going to start the month of May at the beginning. I'm not going to start it in the middle, which it's tough enough to come in and do a one-off in any series, and nothing like putting yourself at a disadvantage. Well, we're not going to do that. We're going to do it right at the get-go. Obviously, the more time I can spend in these cars, I proved that to myself last year when I did the four extra races. I really wasn't as prepared as I could have been, because pit stops and all of it put the whole race together. It's not just having a fast race car, which I think we'll have.
I don't want to get too much in front of it because I hate to get too excited. It's like going to Daytona. You know, you get all built up. You get down there, you can build yourself up for a lot of disappointment. I think we've got a lot of great things to look forward to. I think we're going to be more than satisfied with how our results come about. But yet we still have to get on the track and prove that.
I'm ready to move out. With Dreyer & Reinbold, they're obviously – it's not like they're trying to prepare for this now. They've been prepared for it since last May because they've run several cars.
MODERATOR: Thanks, everybody, appreciate it. One thing, I did want to have the major sponsor say one word, president Todd Whitworth. His first involvement was with John this year at the Daytona 500. He's coming to the Indy 500 for the first time. It's quite an experience for a sponsor to come, as well, coming with John, Richard, and the Dreyer & Reinbold people.
Todd, why don't you explain what your company is looking forward to the month of May.
TODD WHITWORTH: Well, our company, as far as what we're looking forward to the month of May, it's kind of two things. First off, like a kid at Christmas because I'm getting to come to the Indy 500 with the King, Richard Petty, and with John Andretti. So that's a dream come true.
As far as our business, we want to build our brand. We're the nation's largest replacement window company. We want to build our brand and get our name out there and become more of a household name. Partnering with the names of John Andretti and Richard Petty and the Dreyer & Reinbold group are certainly going to help us do that, and the biggest race in the world.
We're really excited. Our entire Window World family of stores, over 225 nationwide, we're excited about the Indy 500 and the month of May.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Todd. I do want to have Dennis Reinbold say just a word about their team's preparation as they come into the month of May. They're very fired up to run John and Richard's car with a strong crew led by Larry Curry. Dennis, you're a veteran of this race. What goes into getting ready for the month of May?
DENNIS REINBOLD: The month of May takes a lot of preparation. As you say, we're very excited to put this effort together with John. That's something that we've been talking to John over a long, long period of time. It feels good to finally be able to put this together. We really thank the Window World people, Todd Whitworth, for helping all of us collectively put this together.
Then bringing the Petty group in, bringing Richard in, having a co-ownership position with our racing team and Richard Petty Motorsports is something that's really an exciting venture for us. It's really something that we really are excited to put together and it's going to be a great month of May. We feel very much prepared for what we're about to do.
There are a lot of highs and lows, as John said earlier, but it's a long month. Our plan is to peak on race day and have a great racecar run up front.