When Richard Petty started his racing career, the championship was given to the driver who finished the most laps. Now the sport will use a made-for-television system that puts an emphasis on the final 10 races the part of the season that goes head-to-head with the National Football League. The seven-time series champion talks about all the changes planned for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season.
Question: What are your feelings on NASCAR's new point system that breaks up the season into a 10-race shootout for the championship among the top 10 drivers after 26 races?
Petty: I got mixed emotions. They've had the point standing three, four or five ways over the years and I've been fortunate enough to win not all of them, but most of them (under the old system). If you do what you're supposed to be doing, it won't matter what they do; you'll still be the champion. From time to time, they might not get a (more-deserving) champion because it's not done the right way. But NASCAR racing got where it's at because we did things different than other people. We had a different ballgame in town. We did not have playoffs. We didn't drafts. We didn't have the same things they had. We got where we're at because of that. Now here we are jumping in the swimming pool with everybody else, so we're going to be a small fish in a big pond. We're going to start looking at doing things that other people do. It's been a success for everybody else, but we got here without all that. I'm a little anxious to see how it's going to come out.
Question: With so much emphasis being placed on television and sponsorships, drivers don't show the same kind of emotion that made stock-car racing unique. Do you miss that?
Petty: Under the circumstances of today's world, no. We're all having to be more politically correct. From the standpoint of being in front of the public and our image, they can't let it ever get out of line like they do in football or baseball. If they clamp down on from the beginning, we'll all be better for it.
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