When Richard Petty talks ... the boys in the shop listen

One thing I really like about this job at Petty Enterprises is that Richard Petty still comes in and tries to stay involved and offer his two cents. It's pretty neat. When you have somebody like Richard Petty talking to you, you definitely listen. He offers advice and stuff he notices and sees other teams are doing and stuff we're doing right and things we're not doing. He's a very honest person. He won't sugarcoat anything.

We're happy being 14th in points, 16 out of 10th, but we're not satisfied. We feel like everything is going in the right direction, but we're not where we want to be. We want to be contending for wins. You know how tough everything is, and you know it's impossible to go from 15th to 25th to winning -- it's a process, and everything we have going on is headed in the right direction.

The way we're running is definitely getting better. We have solid race cars. The guys in the shop are doing a good job giving us good, reliable race cars. If you have dependable cars and you finish all the races you'll be in the Chase. That's the way you have to think these first 26 races. From the first race you have to think that way. That's the approach Bobby Labonte and I and everybody here are taking right now. We're getting better and better and we're getting reliability.

We did the tire test for that tire that ran at Atlanta last weekend. Honestly, that was a really hard decision for Goodyear. We did the tire test on a very clean, green track, and the tire we ran was worn down to the cords in 20 laps, and a fuel lap is 25-50 laps. I was concerned going in. Everybody is on the same tire. I can't sit here and say it was necessarily the right tire. But it was a reliable tire, and there weren't any failures. I can see why they would have chosen that tire because we were wearing down during the test. From the tire test, the track conditions last weekend threw everybody, including myself and Goodyear, for a loop.

The weather last weekend, with the snow and the wind, that was interesting. That really made it tough for the race knowing how cool it was in practice Saturday to the track temperatures being 30 degrees warmer on Sunday. You were guessing what the track was going to be the next day. We felt like it would be that much warmer, and I felt like we hit our setup pretty close. We made some really good adjustments our first stop, but we never improved our position after that. We'd be in the top 12, top 15. That's reliable and solid, but we don't go to the track to finish 12th.

Jeff Meendering is the first-year crew chief for the famed Petty Enterprises No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger driven by Bobby Labonte. Meendering will take ESPN.com readers inside his life on and off the track each week with the help of writer Angelique S. Chengelis.