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DURHAM -- Richard Petty has spent much of the season looking after his wife, Lynda, who has been undergoing cancer treatments at Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC. The King spoke about the progress she has been making and how he has been juggling the desire to take care of his wife while also following Richard Petty Motorsports.
Q. WE HEAR THERE’S GOOD NEWS AS FAR AS LYNDA IS CONCERNED. WOULD YOU LIKE TO COMMENT?
A. We’re having real good news with my wife, Lynda. She had a growth cancer in her head that messed up her central nervous system, but we went back last week and found out they completely eliminated that particular growth. She’ll still have to take some treatments from time to time, but at least she has all of her faculties back and we’re looking forward to another 50 years with her as far as I’m concerned.
Q. IS THERE ANY WAY TO DESCRIBE THE RELIEF YOU MUST FEEL?
A. It’s a big deal whenever anybody gets cancer, and then when we found out what kind it was, we talked to the doctors and they said, ‘It’s a fast-growing cancer, but we think we can slow it down really quick.’ They didn’t only slow it down, they got rid of the complete growth. She still has some things running around in her body, but they’ll keep working at it to keep them from all gathering in one place again.
Q. RACING HAS BEEN YOUR LIFE, BUT DID THIS PUT THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE?
A. That puts everything in perspective. For 50 years I’ve been out messing around with a race car, ever since we’ve been married. I’ve always told her that racing comes first and if she works real hard, she can be number two. Well, after 50 years and when she got cancer I said, ‘Wait a minute, it’s time I give her my next 50 years.’ So it’s been a deal where I haven’t been to a lot of the races so far this year. I’ve had to cut back on a lot of the appearances and different obligations I had, but I felt like she came first. Family comes first and then you work everything around that.
Q. WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE MEDICAL STAFF AT DUKE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL?
A. I can’t believe it. You go in there and they’ve got the very best in the world as far as we’re concerned. They’ve taken my wife and completely did everything they said they would do, and I think it really surprised them that it happened so quick. But they’re right on the cutting edge and trying new things all the time and constantly testing, so we got right in the middle of that. I think they’re just about as happy as how things have gone as we are, but that’s their job. They want to do the job and you just can’t say enough about the doctors and nurses and hospital staff – even the guys parking cars down there. They’re very well organized, they’re a first-class operation, and, as far as we know, they’re the best in the world.
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW THE RACE SEASON HAS GONE FOR RPM?
A. We’ve kind of been up and down. We started off good at Daytona, but then had bad luck during the big race and lost a couple of cars that were capable of winning the race. I think our finishes don’t really show how good we’ve run. Maybe we haven’t run dead up front, but we’ve been in the top four or five and we have to work our way up to that before we can go up to winning. It’s just been kind of a deal where we’ve had good days and we’ve had bad days. With the four cars, some of them have been good one week and bad the next, so none of our cars have been steady. A lot of it isn’t their fault, a lot of it is circumstances beyond their control, like at Texas when they got in that wreck with 15-20 laps to go. Things like that happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. From an overall standpoint, though, us moving to Ford and getting lined up with all the Ford people, the engine shop, and chassis deal, I think they’ve done a remarkable job as far as being able to coordinate with everybody and get the job done. The cars come out of the shop pretty well ready to race, so it’s just a matter of time. They’re getting a little bit better. I think every week our cars are a little bit better, and, of course, everybody else is as well. I think we maybe have further to go, but I think we’re catching up faster than anybody.
Q. WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN AJ PUT THE 43 ON THE POLE AT PHOENIX?
A. That was a great deal. It’s been a long time since any of our cars were sitting on the pole, and to be able to start up front just gives you a little bit of an advantage on pit road and confidence. We didn’t wind up quite as good in the race as what they anticipated, but, there again, that’s circumstances beyond someone’s control. The big deal is that we know we’re capable of doing stuff like that. Like I tell them, ‘Once you get the bar up to there, that’s the low bar. You’ve got to over it. You don’t go under it anymore.’ So when they go out and show me that they can lead races and sit on poles, then, to me, that’s what they’re supposed to do on an everyday basis.
Q. THERE WAS DISAPPOINTMENT ABOUT KASEY’S DECISION TO MOVE ON AFTER THIS YEAR, BUT HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE SHAPING UP AT RPM?
A. I look at it from a standpoint that it has probably been on Kasey’s mind. He didn’t know how to handle it or what to say and that’s a cloud that had always been around him. Now that he has come out and told everybody what he’s gonna do, then that gives us a chance at RPM to start negotiating what we’re gonna do. It gives him a chance to figure out what he’s gonna do, but the big deal is, I think, it takes pressure off of him from the standpoint of really, really concentrating on the car now. Even though he knows he’s got a job, he still wants to show his new boss and his old boss that he can still do the deal, so I think he’s gonna work that much harder at having a good year here. As he does that, we’re gonna learn things about the car and it will be probably closer as far as everyone working together because they want to prove they’re capable. The crew chief and everyone on that team wants to prove that they can do the job. I think this gives us a break for next year as far as figuring out what we’re gonna do, and I told him the other day that I really appreciated him making the decision early to get the pressure off of him and also off of us. We don’t have to keep hearing all this stuff and sponsors wanting to know where things are at, and by getting it out in the open, it just makes it easier and better for everybody.
Q. DO YOU VIEW THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO GO OUT AND GET A GOOD TALENT?
A. I always look at it from a standpoint that anything that changes gives you a better opportunity. In other words, if you’re after something and you go for it and miss it, it just gives you another opportunity to do something else. That something else might be better than what you were thinking you had in your hand. I’m a very optimistic person. That’s the way I look at things. I think the good Lord has things lined up so stuff doesn’t stay the same and you keep digging and keep trying to get better with whatever you’re doing. I think this will be a deal from the standpoint of trying to build more for the future. Now we’ve got to say, ‘OK, are we gonna get a young driver and work with him and try to develop him, or are we gonna get somebody that’s already here that’s winning races and can we take that and keep things together?’ It’s gonna be a challenge any way you look at it.