February 24, 1999 - Pit notes featuringg on STP Pontiac driver John Andretti as he prepares for the Las Vegas 400. Note: Pontiac Grand Prix John Andretti is coming off a 19th-place run in the Dura-Lube/Big Kmart 400 at North Carolina ...
February 24, 1999 - Pit notes featuringg on STP Pontiac driver John Andretti as he prepares for the Las Vegas 400.
Note: Pontiac Grand Prix John Andretti is coming off a 19th-place run in the Dura-Lube/Big Kmart 400 at North Carolina Speedway. In his second season with Petty Enterprises, Andretti talks about his strong run at Las Vegas last season before mechanical problems forced his car to the garage. After qualifying 30th, Andretti quickly worked himself up into the top-10 before motor trouble sidelined him. He finished 41st.
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "If you pull up the times, see where we started and where we got to and you look at the summary of the race, certainly people weren't paying attention to us because we're not maybe one of the notables because we're not consistently there each week yet, but we had a really, really strong car. We had one on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday we knew we were going to be good in the race. The car went straight to the front. It was unfortunate we had a mechanical problem and we didn't get to finish. The car was so strong. I don't know how hard the guys were running up front, if they were only running just hard enough to stay up there, but I think we could have gone up there lap time-wise and given them a run for their money for sure. I felt like for sure we were the best GM car and we were probably the best car there."
SO YOU LIKE RUNNING AT LAS VEGAS? "I didn't like it in qualifying, but when we got sorted through it and worked on the car and got a lot of things worked out, yeah, I liked Las Vegas. I liked the track the whole time we were there. It's a good layout, a good racing layout. If you're quicker you pass. You don't have to ride behind somebody. There's no reason to touch somebody because it's so wide. It's just a real good race track. It gave me an extra boost of confidence because when we got there we were about the slowest car. We struggled. The guys on the team didn't give up and Robbie (Loomis) and I really worked through it. We got the car right and that made a big, big difference. It gave me a lot of confidence knowing we could get back our communication pretty quick. We were under the gun. It was only the third race of the season, the third race where we were back together. It was looking pretty ugly after that extra practice on Thursday. It was looking pretty ugly on Friday all day through qualifying. Robbie and the guys on the team did a great job and I was pumped."
WHERE WERE YOU RUNNING WHEN THE MECHANICAL PROBLEMS STARTED? "We had just pitted and we made about five or 10 laps and we had driven from 30th without a caution into the top-10. We were making time on the leader. It was a big move without a caution. We would have been in the thick of things before too long."
DOES THE LAYOUT AT LAS VEGAS MAKE FOR GOOD RACING? "I think it's a great race track. It's really, really wide. It's a real handling track because it's real flat. It's not so overly fast. You saw guys spin and they didn't even get in the wall. They've have five cars spinning down the front straightaway and nobody would touch anything. It was pretty amazing. I don't know if it was by accident or things worked out that way. Somebody asked me, 'If you were going to design a race track what would you design it like?' The first place I would start at would be a place like Las Vegas. It's a big Richmond. I think Richmond has a good racing layout. It's got a top and a bottom. Racing should be racing. If you're quicker than a guy in front of you, you should have opportunities to pass him. It shouldn't be like if you're quicker than him you think you have to banzai him to really get by him and if he doesn't want you to then you both might crash. Nobody benefits from that. Everybody benefits from when the guys are dicing and moving around and stuff. You get to dicing and you get other guys dicing. I think it's exciting. When we were running three and four abreast down the front straightaway, if I'm in the grandstands I'd think that would be pretty cool."
DO YOU DO ANYTHING FOR FUN IN LAS VEGAS? Nancy and I don't gamble. Last year we took the kids because we wanted them to see around and stuff. I spent a whole lot of money in the arcades because that's what Jarett and I do, we race each other in the arcades. I hate to say it, I always beat him, but I'm trying pretty hard and he was five. We're not going to take him back this year because he would beat me on some of those games now. I don't think I could take that. We just wanted them to see something different. We don't think it's quite the city for children. This time we'll go out alone as late as possible and come back as soon as possible. We've been invited by Red Lobster to go to a Reba McIntyre concert. I think we'll go do that. Who doesn't like Reba?"
LAS VEGAS IS A SYMBOL OF THE SPORT'S EXPANSION. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE EXPLOSIVE GROWTH OF NASCAR OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS? "It is. It makes me think about if it keeps growing why did I move to North Carolina? If they keep growing it too much I just might move back to Indiana because if you have to start flying everywhere again, what's the sense of being close? But that's not going to happen for another 10 years. It's a great time for me to be in the sport. I don't think when I came into this sport anybody had a perception of how fast this sport was going to grow. If you look at all sports, there was a period in time where they all made their big jump. For most sports that happened a long time ago. For motorsports, I truly believe that's happened during my career. It can only happen once. It's from the groundwork on what all the other people have done and the great champions that are in the sport. This sport is old, but not that old. If I knew when it was going to peak, I'd play the market more often. It's still moving and NASCAR certainly has a good grip on the reins and has good control of it. I think all motorsports have benefited, but I certainly think NASCAR has led them all the way on that."
HOW WOULD YOU MANAGE THE GROWTH? "You get into an issue of what's too much and are we too much now. I've been in other racing series with 17 or 18 races and they think they're totally wiped out. It's tough because they only work on two cars. It takes a lot more preparation time per car. What is the number? It's so hard to measure. I look at it a lot of different ways. I hate to lose any race track, but if some of the race tracks went down to one race or the number of days we spent at a race track were less, that might help. Saturday night races are nice because everyone's home with their families on Sunday. It's so hard to answer that question. I think about it occasionally. They're going to move with or without ever asking me. That's why I don't put a lot of time and thought into it. It will affect me but there's not much I can do about it. I like racing and I like going to race tracks. But I like racing at race tracks. I don't like just hanging out at race tracks. Maybe if you need two races at any one track maybe run one Saturday, throw the fans out and run another race on Sunday. Do two a weekend. We did it in sprint cars. We could run 70 races a year that way."