Andretti has mixed feelings on California By Shawn A. Akers FONTANA, Calif. (April 30, 1998) After his experience in the inaugural California 500 presented by NAPA last year, John Andretti isn't sure what to think about Roger ...
Andretti has mixed feelings on California By Shawn A. Akers
FONTANA, Calif. (April 30, 1998) After his experience in the inaugural California 500 presented by NAPA last year, John Andretti isn't sure what to think about Roger Penske's California Speedway.
On the one hand, the facility was more than satisfactory. The hospitality, he said, was great, and the overall atmosphere of the two-mile track was one of the best on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
On the other hand, however, the race track wasn't very receptive to Andretti. After slapping the wall during Bud Pole Qualifying, an incident that relegated him to a 35th-place start, Andretti struggled to a 21st-place finish in the race, winding up two laps down to eventual race winner Jeff Gordon.
"I remember having a real fast car in practice, and then when it came time to do a qualifying run I ended up in the wall," said Andretti, then driving the No. 98 RCA Ford of Cale Yarborough. "Any time a track is new, no matter what it's like, there's only going to be one groove at first.
"That was the one thing about it being one groove. If you got a little bit to the outside of it, it was dirty. I got the right rear up in it and that was off (Turn) 2. (Turns) 1 and 2 didn't get the groove moved out as much as (turns) 3 and 4. But now the track has been there a while and it's moving up."
That's not to say that Andretti, along with a majority of the other drivers, didn't enjoy the brand new, state-of-the-art venue, which, by little coincidence, bares striking resemblance to its sister track, Michigan Speedway.
"Obviously, it's a great facility," Andretti said. "They've (Penske) built enough facilities where they know what they want to accomplish. The thing I remember about California is all the positive comments from the fans and competitors. The place we (the drivers) live is the motorhome lot, and they really took care of us there. I think they tried to do all the right things."
After nine races, Andretti is still looking for his first top-10 finish in 1998, his first season back with Petty Enterprises and the No. 43 STP Pontiac team. He is currently 23rd in the standings, and has incurred his share of misfortune this season.
Andretti hopes that California will be the venue in which's team's fortunes start to turn around.
"It is more like a cross between Vegas and Michigan," Andretti said. "We had a really good car at Vegas and I know these guys really build good cars for Michigan, so I think California should be a real good race for us."
Source: NASCAR Online