Note: STP Pontiac Grand Prix driver John Andretti captured his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory with a win in the 1998 Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Andretti has compiled one win and six top-10 finishes this season with Petty Enterprises and is...
Note: STP Pontiac Grand Prix driver John Andretti captured his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory with a win in the 1998 Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Andretti has compiled one win and six top-10 finishes this season with Petty Enterprises and is coming off a third-place run at Sears Point. Andretti is part of the competitive turnaround with Team Pontiac this season. Pontiac drivers have combined to post three wins, five poles, 19 top-five and 44 top-10 finishes after 16 races. At the same point last season, Pontiac drivers had five top-five and xx top-10 finishes.
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "After Friday and Saturday, I was thinking that things couldn't go much worse (at Sears Point). Fortunately for us, the tables turned completely and the guys got a lot of things done. They had the whole back of the truck torn up, working on transmission, brakes and a variety of things. My guys never gave up and they gave us a flawless car for the race. It was a great handling car and we didn't have any problems. We stayed out of trouble, we made it to the front early on and stayed up there the rest of the day."
YOUR EMOTIONS HEADING BACK TO THE SITE OF YOUR FIRST VICTORY? "I am obviously looking forward to it. I am a little hesitant to take the car we are taking because it is not a good qualifier. The car races real well and I know we can run near the front. If we can make it through without some major incidents, that is always the main topic when going to a restrictor-plate race, we should be fine. Last time at the Pepsi 400, we were missing accidents, but we kept getting spun out in them. We didn't hit anything but we were all over the place. We were fortunate to finish the race, even though we had a little problem at the end."
WHAT'S THE MOOD AT THE SHOP? "Anytime there is double chicken money involved, enthusiasm is pretty high. It is easy to tell stories, but it is always hard to do it. When Petty Enterprises invited the media over to the shop to celebrate its 50th anniversary in racing, a lot of things were said about getting Petty Enterprises back on the map. Obviously, that is saying a lot because what they have done in the past is coming short of a miracle in racing. The idea is to catch up with the Roushs and the Hendricks and those teams to be in the front part of the field. That's not going to happen overnight, but I am just proud to be a part of it all. Kyle Petty has been a huge asset to the team and to me. Our biggest asset was ill, and that always worries me, but he is already back at the race shop. He was there yesterday. Of course I am talking about the King. It just goes to show me how much energy and strength the guy has. This is what he does and this is what he wants to do. All the money that has been put into this team, the fact that Kyle and I work well together, and that Robbie (Loomis) stepped into the role as G.M., has put Pet ty Enterprises in the right direction. I am just hoping that I am a part of it when it gets there."
TALK ABOUT YOUR 1997 PEPSI 400 WIN. "The funny thing is that there were four or five laps left, and I remember Ricky Rudd cutting a tire going into turn one and there was an accident. I got back to the caution first. I was like 'Yeah, I am on this thing.' Dale Earnhardt was behind me and he came up next to me. I think he was trying to give me the thumbs up, but I wasn't sure which finger was showing. I am kidding about that because I didn't even look over. I knew they were going to try and restart this thing. They were not going to finish it under yellow. I was just paying attention to the pace car and hoping that they were not going to stop it. Tony Furr, my crew chief at the time, was hoping they would restart it. He said, 'OK John, you got what you wanted they are going green the next time.' At the time I don't remember that being what I wanted, because Earnhardt was on my back bumper. Nobody drafts better. They say Earnhardt can see air and I believe it. Everybody learns from him. When we got the green, fortunately for me, Dale Jarrett jumped up inside Dale Earnhardt and that really slowed him down. I got away but Terry came out of nowhere and was heading strong. If there was one more lap, it would have been very difficult to win. After the fact I am happy that we got to go green because I think a lot of people would have said that Earnhardt would have beat you. I would have always questioned it myself. At Daytona, more than anywhere else, you rely on your crew chief and engine guy. You have to be able to draft well, and I am still learning. You also have to have the people drafting you believe in you. That is why so many people follow Gordon and Earnhardt because they win a lot of restrictor plate races. When they pull out, a lot of people pull with them, not because they are best buddies, but because they want to be at the front too. It is more of a chess game than anything else and I am still learning how to play chess."
DID YOU TALK TO THE KING SUNDAY? "Not during the race. He was staying in contact with Kyle and the family. You learn more about the King through the family than through the King himself. The King never complains about anything. He had to be in a tremendous amount of pain, because I never heard a word and this kind of thing doesn't happen over night. It's hard just to get the King on the telephone anyway. As a matter of fact, I keep trying to track him down. I want to see how he is doing myself. He is one of the most important aspects of Petty Enterprises. He is the cornerstone to this whole team."
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF ADAM PETTY ADDING A THIRD CAR TO THE TEAM? "I think that Adam is extremely talented. He is just finding his way through these new tracks. He has done an excellent job, but obviously any rookie is going to have problems. It is no fault of his, it is just something that happens. He has still had some exceptional runs. Things are going well for him and he has a good young team. I see him with Petty Enterprises, I just hope he will be driving a third car and not my No. 43."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO THE KING SINCE LAST WEEKEND? "No haven't talked to him since the weekend at all. I talked to several other people, but finding the King is hard to do. It isn't unusual not to have talked to him at this point of the week. I usually see him when I head up to Petty Enterprises on Tuesday. I take a day to catch my breath and then I head to the shop." 0
DID RICHARD'S HEALTH AFFECT THE TEAM THIS WEEK? 9"Anytime the leader is down, the rest of the team works harder to pick things up. A guy like him is always there when you need him. You want to be there for him. Martinsville was a win for the King. There is so much that he does for us that people would never know. He is such a good person that you want to win for them. You value what they have done for you and you want to pay them back. What we did hopefully was something that cheered the Ki
ng up, but I tell you what, it doesn't take much to get him going. His attitude is not to worry and it is funny that he has ulcers because it goes against his personality. That makes you feel that you don't have to worry about anything because deep inside he is doing all the worrying for you."
DESCRIBE YOUR VARIOUS PROGRAMS FOR THE SPEEDWAYS, SHORT TRACKS, ETC. "Well I think we are improving everywhere. We are getting stronger in challenging to win and being one of the guys to beat at certain tracks. The ones we are average at, we can run a top-ten, but we aren't really a contender to win. Our focus is to get stronger there so we can compete to win. The restrictor program has come light years from where it was before. The biggest part of that are the engine builders at Petty Enterprises. We just keep getting better and better with the cars. All those programs are going forward and that is all you can ask. I think it takes a while before you can become a contender at a race track. I think that even our road racing program needs to become stronger if we intend to get were we want to go. We would love to run Martinsville every weekend because we could win the championship then, but unfortunately, we go to all these other tracks. The problem is, that other teams are just as strong as we are in road racing and short tracks, at other types of race tracks. That is the level that we want to build to. We think we can get there because every time we go, we get better."
WHAT IS THE GAME PLAN FOR ADAM PETTY AND WILL YOU BE BACK IN THE 43 NEXT YEAR? "At this point, I don't have any plans of doing anything other then what I am doing right now. The King and I don't talk very much about anything down the road. I think we have an understanding that as long as things are working well for him and things are working well for me, we will continue to work together. I really believe that Petty Enterprises would probably expand when Adam comes to Winston Cup. You know he is coming, you just don't know when. I just can't answer that question. I think Adam could run a Cup car now, he has the talent and capabilities. I just think they want to give him more experience."