JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T) "It's nowhere near what we expect to be doing. We've got some work ahead of us. Obviously, some teams out there are surprising. I think some people are surprised to see where we're at. I've got...
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"It's nowhere near what we expect to be doing. We've got some work ahead of us. Obviously, some teams out there are surprising. I think some people are surprised to see where we're at. I've got too good of an organization I work with and the people I work with to be where we're at. I don't want to use the word embarrassing, but that's not what we're capable of doing. That's not what we're going to continue to do. We've got too good of a program to be there. It's up and down, which is the hard part about Winston Cup. You want your downs to be' that was sort of a rough day and we finished 20th.' You can't have a down day and run 30th, and your up days, you have to be a contender to win. Our strong races, nobody isn't ever going to recognize. Martinsville, Bristol, Richmond, places like that we had a very strong car and often ran with the people who won the race and felt like we were equally as strong as they were, except for Bristol where we got taken out so early. Then the races where we haven't performed, it seems like we've finished. I'd like to reverse some of that, but that's just what fate is, so we'll go from there.
"You have to look at each piece individually and take it apart, but you can't put it under a microscope. If you look at the end result and it's not what you expect, but if you look at some of the races, whether it be Daytona, Martinsville or Bristol or whatever, we've had really strong cars. We just weren't able to complete what we were heading to do. Our qualifying hasn't been where it needs to be. If we can get that, then we can get the other things much easier. It's much easier to start at the front. Some average cars stay up front just because they start there because it's so hard to pass in Winston Cup. Cars are pretty equally matched. Two or three guys have quicker cars and they take off, but if you stuck them in the middle of the pack, they're going to spend half the afternoon getting to the front, too. What's so great about Winston Cup is that it's so competitive.
"Jimmie Johnson has come into the series and is running side-by-side with Jeff Gordon. Whether it be him or Kurt Busch or Ryan Newman, those are the guys that keep getting mentioned in the media. Where did they come from? Well, everybody in Winston Cup is accomplished or they wouldn't be there. That's probably what's so unique about this series. I think on the other hand, all those guys are racing with guys that are past champions or potential champions and have a lot of experience to rely on. In a way, you become surprised because they've done well, but they're driving good equipment, they have no preconceived ideas about where their cars need to be or what they need to be doing. They're wide open. They're just like sponges. They absorb everything. They might be the ones that are least surprised. Maybe the ones that are the most are the experienced guys who might be struggling.
"I was talking to someone earlier and they asked me how things were going. I'm not one to sugar-coat a lot of things, but I think for me, it's easier to quit or it's easier to quit fighting than it is to continue to fight. Everybody on my team continues to fight. I continue to fight with them. I'm not going to give up. I promise you I'm not going to give up. I'm going to work as hard as ever and when we win a race, I know what's going to be written. Where'd he come from? That's OK because we know deep down in lies within us and we just have to pull it out and it has to be our day.
"My immediate future in Winston Cup is about two days. I think it's probably a year. I've been through a lot with Petty Enterprises. I hung tough through difficult times, so I don't really know that that's going to change. I've said in the past, and I always say it, I want to be successful and I know this organization can be successful and successful to the level everybody expects it to be. For me, right now, it's short-term business at hand which is Pocono. We'll go there and do the best we can and hopefully the best we can is something that satisfies all of us. The results haven't been satisfying this year. We've run good to leave the track with satisfaction that we had everything capable of getting that result. You've got to complete it, too. And not to have bad races. We've had about three really bad races where we've been really bad, and that's the bad thing about Winston Cup races, too. You don't have to be off very far and it looks like you're off a mile. We've just got to get those behind us, not do those anymore and get to the front. When we get up to the front regular, then it's bound to happen, but it can also happen out of the blue, too. You get a good race car in one of these races and get the right strategy and all of that, you can win one and not be a guy... They always talk about you've got to be in the top five. No. Last year, 19 guys won and 19 guys can't be in the top five every week. I graduated from college, and I'm still not the smartest guy in the world. That's for sure. I'm not going to claim to be, but 19 guys can't finish in the top five every week.
"I think he (Kyle Petty) has got the organization back on track where he wants to go. He's rebuilt his whole race team, the 45 team that is, and he's really focused on getting the whole organization back. I think it's great that things are working on Kyle's behalf. It seemed like the last several years that nothing could go right for Kyle. Now things are going more his way, and I hope they continue that way. There's not a person in the stands who wouldn't leave with a smile on their face if Kyle Petty won an event.
"I thought Indy was part of my contract back when I signed with the 37 car and evidently it wasn't. CaleYarborough actually was going to let do Indy and then Talladega got rained out. I couldn't make it to Indy to qualify. When I came back to Petty Enterprises, The King wanted me to stay focused on what we're doing here, and I knew that going on. Kyle has done the 24 Hours of Daytona, so he's somebody who's a little more willing because he's done it himself. To look at it, Indy unfortunately is on the same day as our longest race, and that's a big part of it. It's a huge event for us, the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600. Kyle and I are both Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers. Then it's a huge race for General Mills and Cheerios and all the brands, Betty Crocker, you name' em. It's tough. You go from a huge race like Indy to a huge race, you've got pretty big back-to-back events. I know it can be done, obviously, from first hand experience. I like people to agree to things and not be forced into' em. I'd hate to think I'd have to force an issue to do something. At Petty Enterprises, I may have a contract, but I've never looked at it. We shake hands and we do things the old-fashioned way. We like to trust each other and work on the notion that we can trust each other. The short answer is no. If I'm going to sit in a race car 36 times a year, I want to be in an environment that I know that's where I can make the biggest accomplishment, not say I'm going to risk everything for one race. But, if I was going to risk everything for one race, the Indy 500 would be that one race.
"I think that's probably a fair question all the way through our career. I think from the time we raced go-karts all the way up, when you hear the name Andretti... When you walk into check in an airport, they recognize the name more often than not. It's something that follows you everywhere you go. People are going to pay attention to it. I always thought I was the reason the name was so popular, but I guess there was an uncle and cousin and a few other people that have been huge contributors to it. All joking aside, I think that when I came to Winston Cup, people said' you're an open wheel driver, your last name is Andretti and it's pretty much a closed shop down there. Are you crazy?'
"I found anything but that. I found a real competitive environment, and I think everybody is scrutinized equally. I think that I mentioned it earlier. You had to accomplish something somewhere, a past championship or something, to make it to Winston Cup. It's not you just appear on the Winston Cup scene and are a full-time participant and haven't done something else. That says a lot about our series, I think.
"There's no more pressure to perform, and you're going to hear this from other drivers, you ought to just be glad that you don't live with me. When things aren't good... When things are good, everybody is just a piece of cake to be around.
"I look at the open wheel series totally different than I do stock cars, and the reason I do, if there's an accident in an open wheel car, it spreads quite a long distance. I think that also in open wheel racing, if you're getting lapped, you probably deserve to be a lap down. In Winston Cup, there's only a couple of tenths between people and we might have long green flag runs. If the leader comes up to lap you, you can let him do his race and second and those other guys. If the caution comes out, they can let you go and you can stay on the lead lap. If they do it, they paid you a courtesy because you did them a courtesy. It happens for everybody, no matter who you are, because they've all been there. There's certain guys that fight that would never be able to get a lap back. There's other guys that get turned around because you can do that it a stock car.
"In open wheel racing, there's a little bit different criteria and a little bit different scenario. What works for us in Winston Cup wouldn't necessarily work in IRL and vice versa. I think both systems work very well for each other. I think for us in Winston Cup it's easier to monitor. When you get to the start/finish line, just look at the transponder and you see who was in front of who. In IndyCar now the controversy is over the timing of when that yellow light went off, but for safety reasons, I think it works for both sides. I think it's probably safer for us to race back to the yellow because if you watch, it's not everybody racing back to the yellow. It's the leader determining if he wants to let anybody back or doesn't want to let anybody back. If he wants to let anybody back, he's going 20 mph. Everybody is just falling in line. It makes for a better event in Winston Cup racing, too because you maintain more people on the lead lap.
"We talk every weekend. For me, I believe in what we're doing and I'm staying focused on what we're doing. As time passes, maybe things will change. Nobody ever knows what's in the future. I've been here for lot rougher days, and I know everything is coming in the right direction. I don't know that I'm ready to get off right now because I think things are just around the corner for us.
"I think I still consider myself a mutt because I do like driving everything. I get disappointed when they have a race on the weekend and I can't get to it. Even though we've got 36 races, I would probably do a lot more if I wasn't a father of three and love my wife so much that I want to do the right thing by them, too. I get to do what I love to do racing and still do the other, but to answer your question, I've been here a fairly long time and I guess I could be a stock car driver, but I'd like to think I could still be classified as anything if I go back and do the Indy 500, then I'm still an open wheel driver, too. My uncle, when he won the Daytona 500, he did it before he won the Indy 500. He was an IndyCar driver, but overnight, he was a stock car driver. If you want to be somebody who can do everything, in some ways you'd almost like not to be classed as just one thing.
"Right now, my main focus is NASCAR Winston Cup. I think the series is phenomenal. I think with RJR and Winston and all the people who support it, everybody does such a great job. We talk about the number of races we do, I love the number of races we do. It's just that every time you add a race, you add other things that go along with it that consume more of your time away from your family. That's the part you dread more. You want to be with your family, but you want to drive a race car, so in some ways you have to make a sacrifice somewhere. I'd like to do the Indy 500, yeah, that would be my open wheel venture, but I'd like to go back and do a dirt car race. I'd really love to go back and drive those cars again. Those cars were a blast. I joke with the guys here and tell them when I get through driving a stock car I'm going to go drive a top fuel car again. I never look at one thing, but my focus is stock cars, and I think I've got the people around me to thank for that that I do stay focused on one thing because I think it can hurt you if you don't.
"I'm really happy for the success they (young drivers) are having. Their success now is not always going to be there. Whether it's short-lived or long-lived that's kind of the thing we all face, but I'm excited for them. I remember those days. When I first came to Winston Cup it was a little bit different because I didn't grow up in the same environment they grew up in. I didn't grow up focused on the same things they grew up on. The drivers that are coming to Winston Cup today are 100 percent focused on Winston Cup. I was focused on driving just a race car, and the Indy 500 was my main focus because that's what I grew up around. I think it was a little bit different for me. I made a career change. I came from the pinnacle of open wheel racing to go to the pinnacle of stock car racing. It was sort of a different move for me. They're still moving up the ladder. I was making a different move.
"I ask myself all the time what the best situation is. I think that the last couple of years, it may have not been the best move for me but I felt like it was the right move. To be part of this organization and help it grow back to where we have all seen Petty Enterprises years and years ago. Whether it ever gets there remains to be seen, but I can see it's moving in that direction. I've made several wrong moves in my career, but I've made some really good ones, too. I think coming to Winston Cup was a really good move. I can't take credit for saying that was a move I've got to make. I just do things if I feel like they need to happen. If that's something that needs to happen, then it may happen. I haven't give a lot of thought to it right now. I think a lot more has been written than I've thought about it. I really treat all that business behind closed doors. I do every year and I always will because I think that's only fair for the people you work for and you talk things through with them to be fair to them, to support you like you support them. If that's what Kyle said (last year of contract), then yes. I guess if I get to January and they stop paying me, I'll pull the contract out and find it was the end. In all honesty, I couldn't tell you how long I've been here and I couldn't tell you what the contract was or what it says. If that's what Kyle said, then obviously he's more up to date with it than I am."