Andretti, Mast Loudon Saturday notes

THOUGHTS FROM JOHN ANDRETTI, NO. 43 CHEERIOS/STP PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (ON TOMORROW'S RACE) "Hopefully tomorrow we can do all the right things and give ourselves a good finish. I think we've got the capabilities. Petty Enterprises has qualified...


(ON TOMORROW'S RACE) "Hopefully tomorrow we can do all the right things and give ourselves a good finish. I think we've got the capabilities. Petty Enterprises has qualified on the front row for three of the last four races, and if it wasn't for one guy out there we'd have three poles."

(IS HE SURPRISED BY THE TEAM'S IMPROVEMENT?) "I knew we could run good. So many things happen that always stir things up. We are just really starting to get our feet planted on the ground. (Crew chief) Greg (Steadman) and I are working really good together. The first part of the year we experimented a whole bunch. And we're still experimenting because the whole idea is that if you don't try something new you never get any better. Sometimes it hurts us. But the things we've found out we keep piling on top of the other stuff, and overall we just get better as a race team."

(ON RUNNING OUT OF FUEL IN THE LATE STAGES OF LAST YEAR'S RACE) "We ran longer than Tony (Stewart), but it seems like that got lost in the mix. I guess it's from not being important.

"But I think that we've got the capabilities of winning the race here. We've run awful strong here before. Last year we ran out of fuel the one race. The other race, we were every bit as good as (Joe) Nemechek in the '42' and we got crashed. So what are you supposed to do? You've just got to lick your wounds, come back and do it again. I think we are more than capable of pulling off a win. But everything has to happen right. That's why guys that win a lot - they know how to put together the whole package and get it all together more often. We've got two guys running over the wall that didn't change tires for us last year. They're doing a fantastic job, but a little part of that was a learning process for us, too. We've got two different tire carriers, two different guys changing tires. Pit stops are pretty critical. I don't know if anybody realizes that."

(IS THE TEAM CHANGING ITS APPROACH FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON?) "No. We only set out at the beginning of the year to try and win races. Our approach hasn't changed. We're still trying to win races and that's all we're trying to do. I think looking at the start of the year, you have to look at the guys that are running for the championship. There's not going to be any guys that just all of a sudden bounce from there-to-there. You've got to get up there, you've got to be up there, you've got to be up there. We realize that. The first step is to start winning races and try to win those on a more consistent basis. Then we can start worrying about the ultimate goal."


(WHAT DOES HE EXPECT FROM TOMORROW'S RACE) "I don't know. I've had four or five good runs at this racetrack. Right now we're just working with the chassis. I still don't have it exactly where I want it. The car is like it's just that close from being perfect, but I can't quite get it. Everything we do, we just kind of teeter-totter on both sides of it. But even at its worst right now, the car feels like it's a good car for tomorrow. The car is good and stable, good and consistent right now. I think it's going to be OK tomorrow."

(ON THE IMPROVEMENT IN THE TEAM'S EQUIPMENT) "When I first came on board (in April) the things wouldn't run, the car wouldn't drive right and all that. But A.J. (Foyt) kind of took the bull by the horns and started addressing all the problems. We're still not where we need to be, but everything is headed in the right direction. I so wish that the end of April or beginning of May would have been last November for this race team. If it had been, this race team would be a lot further ahead now."

(ON WORKING WITH CREW CHIEF PHILIPPE LOPEZ) "The best thing is that Philippe is a very basic crew chief and I'm a very basic driver. We like to stick to the basics on these race cars. If you look, the top five guys in the points are that way. That's kind of the way we approach it and that's helped us work through all these problems we've got."

(ON HIS TIRE PERFORMANCE HERE) "This tire is falling off less for me than any thing I've ever had here. Whether it's the tire or set-up on the car, I don't know. But I noticed some other cars are falling off like normal. My car doesn't seem to be falling off like that. It's not really that quick to begin with, but it's not really falling off that much.

"I think if we go long enough without cautions it will be a big deal for us. If they told me right now that we were only going to have two cautions all day tomorrow, I wouldn't touch my race car. It is that good for a 100 lap run. But, I know that's not going to be the case, and that is kind of what we're working on now, trying to get the car a little quicker for shorter runs. We need to be good for 70 or 80 laps, max, instead of 120 laps, max. But you know what happens here. You'll run 10 laps and have a caution, run 10 more laps and have a caution, and you'll do that four or five times. Then the next thing you know, you'll go a whole green flag run without a caution. That's the hitch to this racetrack. So you've got to have it ready for both ways, I guess."

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Series NASCAR Cup