JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Andretti finished second in last season's Food City 500. He'll start 21st in Sunday's 43-car field. DO YOU THINK THE INFIELD TUNNEL WILL CHANGE THE TRACK AT ALL? "I think the track is ...
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Andretti finished second in last season's Food City 500. He'll start 21st in Sunday's 43-car field.
DO YOU THINK THE INFIELD TUNNEL WILL CHANGE THE TRACK AT ALL?
"I think the track is pretty rough to begin with. I think anything they did to it, they'd probably have trouble making it any rougher. It looks like there might be a bump there. I don't know if it's an additional bump or if it's something that's happened because of the tunnel."
DISCUSS YOUR RUNNER-UP FINISH HERE LAST YEAR
"We had a good race here last year until we got bumped. We were on the lead lap and were on the outside. The car on the bottom just slid up a little bit. That happens here at Bristol. We bumped the wall. I think we had the best car here that day and then it just made us an average car. From that point, I think we were lucky to come out with what we had, but it wasn't what we wanted.
"I've had some good races here. I ran fourth a year or two ago. Good races don't always result in good finishes. Last fall, I had a better car than I did in the spring. We came from the back and nobody even thinks about it because we got crashed. I knew we had a great car. We raced from provisional all the way up to the top 10 inside 100 laps to go. The car was pretty strong. We'll have to wait and see what we've got this time. I'm not like Rusty and Mark where they always qualify well here. That makes a big difference. You can settle down in front, and if you're not exactly right, you can hang on here. If you're not good and you start in the back or if you're just as good as they are, you're not going to pass anybody. Unless you start rooting and gouging and that ain't racing.
"Starting in the back here is outside the top 20. They've got to dig through 20 cars to get to you. You can settle in and not have to start racing right away to get yourself in a secure position. A lap down at Bristol is not the most evil thing in the world, either. You're always going to be at the front the rest of the day, which is probably going to keep you out of trouble. Guys are starting to use their heads a little bit more now. They're not just drop kicking somebody."
COMMENT ON PIT ROAD PROCEDURE
"I like the new pit road procedure here. I talked to them about it two years ago. I can understand hesitation. It's difficult to understand everything that goes into it. It's easy to come up with a theory. It's difficult to make sure that a theory covers all the bases. I think NASCAR took their time, settled in and looked at it. The thing I like about it, they're at least willing to try something. If you never try, you never know. If you try and it doesn't work, it doesn't work. At least you tried. You try it now and improve it for the fall. It's certainly going to be better than a pit road at Martinsville. I think it's going to work better than the pit road at Martinsville because you're not so crowded and hitting guys in corners. Hitting a guy in the corner creates blind spots, creates guys trying to clip the corner tighter. It's not as good as a straight pit road."
WOULD YOU RATHER BE LUCKY OR GOOD AT BRISTOL?
"I'd rather be lucky. You can be good here and not be lucky and who cares. You can be tore up. If you're not good and you're awful lucky, you're probably going to have a good race. The car has got to be right, but the point is, it doesn't matter how good your car is. You can still get taken out. It's not like Michigan or a place like that where you've got a lot of elbow room and can kind of move around, or even a place like Martinsville where if a guy turns you, you just get turned.
"At Bristol, you hit something, it's so fast, that somebody hits you and pretty soon a one-car spin is five or six cars. You just can't get stopped. It's like Daytona and Talladega. You can see it happening. If you could throw an anchor you'd be all right for a minute. If the guy behind you forgot to throw his anchor, then he'd be on top of you.
"When fans come to races, they come to see excitement and action. Bristol gives 'em all that. For them, they've got their favorite drivers, but they come for the excitement of it all. Not being a car owner any more in the Busch Series, I like watching the Busch races. I'm sure I'm going to love watching the Winston Cup races when I don't drive any more. As long as I don't own a team. When you come to Bristol, it's one of the wild card races. You never know what's going to happen here, but a lot does happen.
"When I get in the car here, I'm thinking, 'I hate Bristol.' I hate it because the chances of something bad happening are greater than the chances of something good happening. Your destiny is not in your own hands.
"I just try to get the best out of it I can get. When I go to other places, I'm usually thinking I like the track, but just because I like the track doesn't mean I'm going to have a good result or because I hate it doesn't mean I'm going to have a bad one.
"The guys who qualify good here have a better chance of racing good. Qualifying means a lot. Plus, the guys people know race good here all the time get a break. Last year when I was leading the race, I saw Jeff Gordon coming up. I was going to be lapping some cars and I let him take the lead. It was just like Moses. They part the sea for him and he goes through. I just followed him. With me, they were dicing and banging. I wasn't going to tear up my car. Following him, it was a little different attitude. I guess it's OK if Jeff Gordon passes you and not OK if John Andretti does. It's a little bit that way everywhere. You gain respect from being the guy that's a front runner. You know that guy can probably help you more than you can help him at times. In other words, he may be a guy who can give you a lap back sometimes if you're more courteous to him and someone else might not be."
ARE YOU FRUSTRATED WITH THE WAY THE SEASON HAS STARTED FOR YOU?
"I think I'm more confused right now than frustrated. We've got the capabilities of running good. The last few races, we thought we had one thing and we ended up with another. We're taking a hard luck at what we're doing and seeing where we need to get better. It's obvious some guys are figuring some stuff out that other people haven't. There's some guys right in the middle of the road, and I think we've got some real good cars and I know we've got a real good team. It's just a matter of getting that last element out of it. I think we'll be OK.
"You always need to be finishing up front. To turn things around for us may be different than turning things around for somebody else. We've got to figure out where we're missing it and other things will fall right back into place. When that happens, then I guess the world will be round again. Right now, I guess it's pretty square.
"The whole Petty program has stepped up. Robin Pemberton has helped the teams get organized. It's not so much the other two Petty teams coming up. It's more like we're just not getting it right. I think they're doing their job, and we're not getting our job done. It's all there. We know we're in better shape than we were in last year, yet we're worse than we were last year. It's the same group of guys and the same driver. Obviously, we're not getting out of it what we should be getting out of it. Kyle drives the car so different than I do, and Buckshot is hard to read.
"We know what basically is in the other cars, but basically that doesn't help us. In all honesty, I'd rather know what's in the 40. The goal is to win. You've got to learn from each other, and we are learning from each other, but you've got to have more gains than losses. That's where Robin comes in. He sees what's seeping through the cracks and what's worth plugging up and what we should just let go.
"You end up talking about what you're doing. We can just eliminate Las Vegas from the picture. No matter what you did to that car, it didn't do anything to it. At Atlanta, we had a really good car. We were trying some different stuff and it just didn't work. As the track changed, the car wouldn't adapt to it. We changed the car a lot. It helped it some, but it was hurting it as much as it was helping it in other places. I thought I had a decent car at Darlington. I got in the race and we weren't close. I know the guys are going to test and they're thinking they're having a good test. Then they go to races and they have bad races. Then you have guys that haven't been testing, haven't been doing anything and they're having great races. It's not magic. They're doing something different than what you're doing. You've just got to figure out what they're doing."
ARE YOU ON SCHEDULE WITH THE DODGE PROGRAM?
"Sterling could have won five out of five this year. They're right on it. They've been the best single Dodge program out there since they came back. They've got the best program going. Their confidence is high. There's no reason for that big of a gap between the other teams, but there's always going to be a gap. Gordon has won a lot of championships for Chevrolet and there wasn't another Chevrolet close to him. Everything has got to click together, and it's not just the manufacturer. Everything else has to come together, too, but I think the Dodge program has got everything working right now. If Sterling can win races, we should be able to win, too."
DO YOU THINK YOUR LUCK HAS GOT TO CHANGE?
"I've sort of been labeled unlucky. I don't look at it like that. I've got three great kids, a perfect marriage in my eyes. Racing is going to come and racing is going to go. My family will always be there. As long as they're healthy, I think I'm extremely lucky, but I get a lot of lucky charms in the mail. I think you make a lot of your own luck. If you qualify on the pole for every race, your luck is going to change. It's not really a luck change. You've just changed the position of where you're starting.
"I've got a little wooden duck head, buckeyes. I haven't really had any rabbit's feet. I guess people are staying away from cruelty to animals. People send prayers, gifts blessed by the Pope. It's a wide variety of things. Anything that might be special to them, they send. I've had four-leaf clovers, people that give me something they might have only one of. I've had people give me a coin they've had in their pockets since they were a kid. I keep all of it. It's neat they're willing to give something up trying to help you. I put 'em in the car at first, but I'd lose it. You get out of the car and you run and go do something, the car gets crashed or whatever. You put it in your racing suit pocket and forget about it and it goes to the cleaners and you never see it again. I keep 'em for keepsakes now. I don't believe any one item can change your luck. I heard somebody say one time that 'I'm too religious to be superstitious.' I believe in God, so you're not supposed to have something else to take his place. I get the items at appearances mostly. People stand in line and they're your fans. They want to see you do well. The fans are pretty special in Winston Cup. They watch everything. They don't just see the leader and winner. They see a lot of things. I've got two women who are great fans that run my fan club. They're on top of that thing. They donate their time to do it. Then we have great followers. We get a lot of Richard's fans since I'm driving the 43. They used to root for The King, and they're going to continue to root for the guy who drives the 43. They're not necessarily John Andretti fans. Hopefully, they'll become my fans.
"The King is pretty laid back these days. We don't see as much of The King as we used to. That's OK because he deserves a rest, not that he's resting. Kyle has relieved him a lot, and Kyle has moved things over to other people. The King deserves to enjoy what he's worked for."
ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE MIKE EGE ENGINES?
"We're happy with the Ege engine program. They've done a good job. They're real focused on what they want to do. They don't talk about what they want to do. They just go do it. It's great having a program where you're not sitting there worrying about it. Steve Allen oversees the engine tuners at the track. He's on top of things. They want to do the best job in Winston Cup, and that's all you can ask out of somebody.
"I think you've got to have the right motor at Bristol. We've been debating on what we wanted to do, but we'll see if we've got the right one in. You don't get to have the wrong one in and change it. You can still change manifolds and stuff. I don't think the one-engine rule has hurt us."