Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford driver Michael Andretti is a big supporter of Nazareth Speedway. CART's winningest active driver believes the speedway has the potential to be one of the stronger attended races on the CART schedule, but feels the...
Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford driver Michael Andretti is a big supporter of Nazareth Speedway. CART's winningest active driver believes the speedway has the potential to be one of the stronger attended races on the CART schedule, but feels the events attendance suffers from its early April race date.
Andretti also discusses the impact the new wing package will have on competition and the role the weather could play in the race.
Michael Andretti -6- Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford-Cosworth --
IS IT MORE DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO GET INTO A RACE WEEK RITUAL IN NAZARETH WITH YOU COMMUTING FROM HOME TO THE TRACK RATHER FROM A HOTEL?
"It's really funny, actually, when you get inside the walls at the race track it just clicks and all the sudden you are in race mode. As soon as you go outside the track it's different, but once you get inside you are in another world and you don't even know you are in Nazareth. It's all business."
ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE THE TEAM OVER TO YOUR HOUSE?
"I don't know right now because my house is pretty torn up. We are doing a lot of renovation right now, so we probably won't. But usually we do."
WHAT CAN THE FANS EXPECT THE RACING TO BE LIKE WITH THE NEW WINGS?
"I think it is going to be exactly like the race we had in Nazareth in 1998 because the downforce on the cars is really similar. So, turn on the TV and watch the 1998 race and I think that's what you are going to have."
WITH FORECASTERS CALLING FOR COOLER TEMPERATURES FOR THE RACE, HOW MIGHT THAT AFFECT THE CARS?
"That could be a problem on the restarts the most. In fact, that caught me one year when we were in Nazareth, I lit up the tires and crashed. That can definitely affect the race. It did that year. Hopefully it will be warm."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DO AS A DRIVER TO PREPARE FOR COOLER TEMPERATURES?
"Not really. Wear warmer gloves maybe! You just have to be really careful on the tires until you get some heat into them. The problem is, you don't know when the tires are up to temperature. You think they are there, then you realize they aren't, but by that time, though, it's too late."
THERE HAS BEEN SOME TALK ABOUT THE UNCERTAINTY ABOUT THE FUTURE OF NAZARETH ON THE CART SCHEDULE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT?
"I know we will be back next year because they have a contract through 2001, and they have told me the race next year is definitely on."
WHAT KIND OF A NICHE DOES NAZARETH FILL ON THE SCHEDULE?
"A huge one really. When you think of the demographics, being so close to New York and Philly, if it's done right, the race should be able to draw really well. The problem is that this race has never had a good date. If you put this race in the summer, you will pack the place. I think it's a very important race for us because it's the only one we have in the Northeast. And the Northeast is one of the highest populated regions in the United States."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THESE BULLRINGS THAT YOU ENJOY?
"I have been very fortunate to get cars that work for me at places like this. That's the key - you need a car that works for you here. A lot of it has to do with the team too, they prepare a great car for me."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE SERIES RACE ON MORE OF THE SMALLER TRACKS?
"I like them. I like the one-mile ovals; they are really fun to drive. They make for great racing because there is a lot of passing going on. There is always action, which is good for the fans. Plus, you can see the whole racetrack. I think they are very entertaining tracks."