CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kyle Petty believes his decision to leave Petty Enterprises and strike out on his own was beneficial to everyone involved in the family racing business.
'I think everybody saw it had gotten to this point and which way things were headed,' Petty, 24, said Tuesday. 'Really, I think it's helped everybody.
'I think it's taken a lot of pressure off daddy (Richard Petty) as far as he was always worried about me being at Petty Enterprises and worried about what went on at Petty Enterprises with me. Now that I'm leaving, that takes some of the pressure off him.
'I think it takes some of the pressure off me not to have to look after and double check the car all the time. Now, I can go out and be more like Darrell (Waltrip), (Dale) Earnhardt, or somebody like that who only drives the car.'
He said it had also taken pressure of his uncle, Maurice, who now has the Petty shop and is free to make his own deal, as well as his grandfather, Lee, who doesn't have to worry about him either.
The young Petty's decision to leave the family business came less than a year after his father, seven-time NASCAR Grand National champion Richard Petty, left. Kyle Petty made his decision known late last month after Lee Petty, his grandfather, fired numerous members of Kyle's pit crew and two others left.
Petty now operates like the independents on the circuit, sharing truck driving duties and overseeing numerous details, such as wakeup calls at motels, that his former crew chief handled.
Petty, the Stuart, Va.-based Wood Brothers racing team, and Petty's sponsor 7-Eleven have begun negotiations for the 1985 season. Petty said no contracts have been signed but all three parties want the deal to work.
'I think we're going to sign something in the next 30 or 40 days,' he said. 'We are real close.'
Petty said he began serious talks with the Wood Brothers because he wanted to remain in a Ford and they appeared to be the only Ford team with an opening. He said Bud Moore told him he wanted to stay with Ricky Rudd and Junie Donlavey appeared to be holding out for current driver Dick Brooks
Bill Elliott's team is a family organization and another team considering switching to Ford hasn't made a definite decision.
Petty began his driving career in 1979 in the Grand National division but said if it had been 1980 he would have done it differently, electing an internship in the Late Model Sportsman ranks for two or three years.
He admits he needs more experience and believes anyone who has written him off is 'nearsighted.'
'Hopefully, they'll be eating their words. Your consistent winners are over 40 years old. Well, anywhere from 35 to 40.'
He called this season 'one of my best years, in as far as driving a race car, not as far as money won and as far as finishes or anything like that, but as far as the way we've run and the progress we've made this year.'
In 20 races, he had one top five and four top 10 finishes and earned more than $214,000.
'This year was a critical year,' said Petty, who switched from General Motors products to Ford. 'I felt like this was going to be a turning point in my career. That is why the Ford deal was such a big deal over the winter. It didn't take but about three or four races before I realized I should have been running Fords sooner.'
He also realized he had reached a point where he had to switch teams for the betterment of his career.
'I felt like that Petty Enterprises, Daddy and the guys at the shop had brought me from point A to point B but now to get to point C, I had to take another route,' Petty said.
He said the decision to leave Petty Enterprises could have been difficult.
'If I was 30 or older it would be real difficult. At 24, it's not that difficult. I don't know if its impatience or not being smart enough to be afraid to make a move like that. I could take the safe way and stay where I'm at and not have to worry. But you've got to make a sacrifice one place to make a gain somewhere else.
'I had been thinking about it for a couple of years. I was looking last year, tentatively. It's been in the works and the planning stages for some time.'