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A few words with: Mark McArdle

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 19 2009
Mark McArdle is vice president for competition at Richard Petty Motorsports. He recently answered some questions about Dodges and RPM:
Question: Has your timetable changed at all in getting the new Dodge R6 engine introduced to your team?
McArdle: No, we really haven’t altered our timetable. The program was always calling for us to go through the first 10 races of the year with the R5P7 engine which has been just as reliable as the Rock of Gibraltar for us. Certainly we’ve seen others experience problems with prime movers, so we’ve been fortunate that that strategy has worked out well for us. If you kind of do the statistical analysis of it, you find in that first 10 races, you’re statistically going to stabilize your point’s position plus-minus about six positions. So we wanted to ensure that during that period of time that we were being a little bit on the safe side with regards to reliability while we continue to develop the R6 for later-season introduction depending on exactly where we find ourselves and what circumstances.
Question: Do you feel like the current state of NASCAR provides more opportunity for a team like yours? Do you feel like it’s business as usual?
McArdle: I think the answer is kind of complex. I would have to answer first by saying clearly things have changed. The entire economic downturn has affected the environment of all race teams. It would be a fallacy to think that it’s business as usual. The sponsor dollar and the manufacturer support are what fuel our industry and when they’re in difficult straits; it certainly puts us at risk. In the case of an organization like ours, just outside of the ‘big four’, our task was Herculean to begin with and I think that getting a car or more in the Chase is certainly our goal… and it’s every teams goal…some with more realistic expectations for success to the achievement of that goal versus others. The four teams that have run up at the front of the sport for the last couple of years certainly have a solid claim to more than just those twelve positions. And so breaking our way in is yeoman work. We came incredibly close a year ago and unfortunately just quite didn’t get there. And so now, it order to compete with them in this economic environment means that resources are even more scarce…more difficult to come by. I’d have to say that the challenge has gotten more difficult, but at the same time, we at Richard Petty Motorsports welcome the challenge. It’s kind of been our legacy as an organization dating back to when Ray Evernham founded us as Evernham Motorsports. We’ve always prided ourselves of always ‘punching above our weight’.
Question: What are the burning issues on the forefront of your race program?
McArdle: The integration has been very seamless and very easy I think. The fact that the organization that was – Petty Enterprises – has been dissolved and the pieces and constituent parts have gone their separate ways means that our integration of Richard (Petty), Robbie (Loomis) and Dale (Inman) has really been the only task in changing our direction. In saying that’s ‘all’ there was, I’m probably understating because bringing Richard Petty’s name and experience, Dale Inman’s incredible depth of knowledge and Robbie Loomis’ ability to bring to our crew chiefs that experience of having sat on the (pit) box to bring a team a championship is invaluable, and at every level of the company it has been impactful. So from that perspective it’s gone quite well. From the technical perspective, in terms of development, I think the present race car rules that NASCAR has given us makes it pretty obvious what everyone needs to be working on; lowest possible of center of gravity, maximum of aerodynamic down force and side force with the minimum amount of drag with the most power under the hood. Those are the things that has made the sport go ‘round forever, but the playing field has become darn near the level of a billiard table at this point in terms of being flat and smooth for all of us. So the very small things, the details make the differences and I think each organization is finding its way to getting the best out of the race car from the perspective of handling week by week. Some are moving more quickly than others. As always, you get an advantage for a period of time as we had last summer. It slips away and hopefully you’re working on the next great thing. Suffice to say, those three basics of race car development are the focus of all our developmental efforts and we’re in an ongoing and constant process in all areas.
Question: How are things going on the sponsorship front at RPM?
McArdle: The development of sponsors has been greatly enhanced by having Richard (Petty) in the organization. The ability to have that image, that spokesperson as someone that you can offer up to a corporate organization has just made a big difference to many of the receptions that we can expect to get as we go looking for the additional resources that will hopefully carry us in that rarefied air of the Chase. He has just been phenomenal with regard to his willingness and ability to enhance our efforts to try and get some marketing wins. Certainly we’ve had some recent additions with Paralyzed Veterans of America and Super 8 hotels. We’re directly related to the influence that he brings.
Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 19 2009
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