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Petty, team VP Loomis differ on who made call for McCumbee

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Kyle Petty stood in the back of his hauler at Daytona International Speedway in February and questioned why members of the media didn't call B.S. to the answers many Sprint Cup drivers give during interviews.

He didn't expect it to be turned on him.

But on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, as reporters attempted to unravel exactly who decided to replace him with rookie Chad McCumbee this weekend, it was.

Petty made it clear the decision wasn't his and that he never wanted to come out of the car. Robbie Loomis, the vice president of competition at Petty Enterprises, said it was.

So the B.S. flag was thrown.

"I'll let you throw the B.S. flag on this a little bit," said Petty, who is scheduled to be back in the car next week at Phoenix. "I'm not going to tell you the truth, and here's the reason. It will hurt too many different people in too many different ways from too many different angles.

"I'm just not going to tell you the truth. Take what I say and write it. I'm just not going to tell you where everything's at. I just can't."

He won't because to tell the truth would be to throw members of his team, perhaps even his famous father, seven-time champion Richard Petty, under the bus.

In a way, he did. Kyle said he wasn't the problem with the team that is 40th in points and coming off a missed race last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. He said he wasn't THE reason the team hasn't finished better than 22nd in points since 1998.

But he did mention that he wanted to drive a competitive car, which suggests the one he's in isn't. McCumbee wasn't any better, failing to qualify for Sunday's race, one of only three cars to miss the 43-car field.

"I'm 47," Kyle said. "I really don't give a rat's rear end about a lot of things anymore. [But] there's nothing I want to do more than drive a race car. Nothing in this freaking world that I want to do more than drive a race car. I want to drive a good race car. I want to drive a competitive race car.

"We're not in a good competitive situation right now. We've got to make our stuff better. I think they're trying really, really hard to make it better. If I'm the problem then I'm the one that needs to get out of the way so it can get better. If somebody else is the problem then they've got to be big enough to step out of the way."

That's the way Loomis saw this decision come down. He said Kyle and Richard came to his office at Mooresville, N.C., on Monday and said, "Hey, I know you're trying to strengthen this team up. Let's try to leave as much as that intact as you can right now and let's put Chad in there and give him a chance."

"Quite frankly, Kyle is the one that came up with the idea." he added.

Loomis went on to say he "got a numb" feeling when the recommendation was made.

Kyle initially took offense at the suggestion that stepping out of the car was his idea.

"I don't care what he said," Petty said of Loomis. "I said it wasn't. Why would I get out of a car?"

He later admitted he had some culpability in the matter, but never to the point sitting out was his idea.

"I can't honestly say it was my idea," Kyle said. "Was it Robbie Loomis' idea? I can't honestly say it was their idea, either. We sat in an office. This was one of the options we had. We had multiple options. There's no need to bring those up because those just hurt other people."

The elder Petty said it simply was a meeting of the minds, a company decision.

"I'm not getting in on a discussion where so-and-so said something and so-and-so said something else," he said. "It is what it is. It was a situation where we looked like we needed to make some changes here, and so this is one of the changes we made."

The man known as "King" went on to say that he doesn't believe the problem with the No. 45 can be blamed solely on his son. As Kyle reminded several times, mechanical issues sidelined him in four of the first five races.

"No, it's a combination deal," Richard said. "The driver can only do so much. The crew can only do so much. Circumstances beyond our control does the rest of it. Right now we don't have any of the three ingredients working to a plus. So that's what we're trying to get going here."

That may be the real story and a reason this is a much bigger deal than Kyle wants to admit it is. Nobody knows exactly what the problem is at NASCAR's most storied franchise and all parties can't agree on what it will take to fix it.

They're trying, negotiating with a financial partner in New York that will sure up that end of the business. They're also looking for a primary sponsor for the famed No. 43 after General Mills announced on Monday it was leaving for Richard Childress Racing next season.

They're also trying to re-sign 2000 Cup champion Bobby Labonte, who has been speculated as the top candidate for the fourth car at RCR.

"I think Petty [Enterprises] is not in an impossible situation but a hard situation," Kyle said. "You're trying to stay apart of the sport and catch up to the sport. We're talking to investors. We're losing sponsors. We're trying to find sponsors. We're trying to get drivers. We're trying to keep drivers.

"We've got so many balls in the air. Most teams can juggle one, but we're having to juggle five or six. I don't think it's impossible, but we've got to have the right direction and we've got to stay in the right direction and everybody has got to be pulling in the right direction."

So everybody isn't pulling in the right direction?

"We're just not at that place right yet," Kyle continued. "We've not got the direction we need."

Getting everybody on the same page as to why Kyle was taken out of the 45 might be a good place to start. It doesn't sound good when the driver and management seem to be at odds even though both say they aren't.

"We have issues that we've got to discuss internally," Kyle said. "But we're not in any way shape or form cutting each other's throats and backstabbing and going off in different directions and you're doing this and I'm doing this and screw you and I'll take this and I'll take that and I'm moving back to Level Cross and you stay in Charlotte.

"It's not any of that. It's all about making the 45 team better."

But there still seems to be conflict. Petty was a big part of the decision-making process at Petty Enterprises before Loomis arrived two and a half years ago from Hendrick Motorsports. He has been at odds over several recent decisions, including the one to move the organization from Level Cross, N.C., to Mooresville to be closer to the talent base.

"I think there was a time when we needed to move to Mooresville, or we needed to move to the Charlotte area," Kyle said. "That time had passed. So I was not a hundred percent moving to Mooresville.

"I felt we had some issues that we should fix and could fix whether we were in Level Cross or Mooresville. We have not fixed those issues yet. We're not running any better in Mooresville than we were in Level Cross."

But Petty made it clear that he still wants to drive even though he was scheduled to miss seven races -- six to be a television analyst for TNT and one to attend his daughter's wedding -- beginning in June.

And he made it clear that he still cares about being successful.

"I never want to come out of the car," he said. "Why would I ever want to come out of the car? I'm arrogant enough to believe I'm not the problem. At the same time I don't want to be the one to stand in the way if I am the problem.

"But I'm confident enough in my ability in what I do that if I'm forced to step out and let somebody else do it then I'll step out. And you give it a shot and I'll come back in."

That is no B.S.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.