INDIANAPOLIS, July 6, 1999 -- John Andretti doesn't like Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- he just loves the place. When Andretti talks about the 2.5-mile oval, located smack dab in the middle of America's heartland, he makes it...
INDIANAPOLIS, July 6, 1999 -- John Andretti doesn't like Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- he just loves the place. When Andretti talks about the 2.5-mile oval, located smack dab in the middle of America's heartland, he makes it sound more like kind words for an old flame rather than praise for the country's premier motorsports facility. "I can't tell you how great it is," said Andretti, a family name synonymous with the Indianapolis 500. "I think it speaks for itself. "It is like going home. They don't give me enough pit passes, that's the only problem going to Indy. When you get to the place, it has got a magic feel about it." Andretti, 36, is one of the few drivers who has competed in both of the Speedway's biggest events -- the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, set for its sixth running Aug. 7. That's all well and good, but Andretti said there's just one little problem with his Speedway record. "I've done it all, but I haven't won there," said Andretti, who is Mario Andretti's nephew and Michael Andretti's cousin. "I haven't won the Brickyard, and I haven't won the Indianapolis 500. "Last year, we had an exceptional car for the 400. I think we had a car capable of winning. Unfortunately, we got tangled up in the pits." Andretti started ninth and finished seventh in the 1998 Brickyard 400 despite problems on pit road during the 160-lap run, won by another driver with deep Indiana ties, Jeff Gordon. Mario, who has retired as a driver, won the 1969 Indy 500 and came close on several other occasions. Michael has never won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Neither driver has competed in the Brickyard 400. Other than Mario's lone triumph, the Andretti clan is known for their collective streak of bad luck at the Speedway. The list of heartbreaks is too large to list here. John Andretti is well aware of the so-called "Andretti Curse." "The Indy 500, well, I felt like I've had opportunities to win," said John Andretti. "I think it's one of those things if I can last it out long enough, maybe the Andretti luck will be lifted there and we can get in Victory Lane." Andretti said he doesn't care what event he's running as long as he has a competitive car in either field. His last Indy 500 run came in 1994, when he pulled double-duty on Memorial Day weekend by racing at Indianapolis and in the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Charlotte, N.C. Right now, he's got a good shot at the Brickyard 400 title. Andretti is beginning his second full season in Richard Petty's entry. The No. 43 STP Pontiac, which carried Petty to 200 victories during his 35-year career, is an icon in NASCAR Winston Cup racing. Andretti scored his first win for Petty Enterprises, Inc., at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on April 18, and expects many more triumphs before he's done racing for "King Richard." He would love to add the Brickyard 400 to his list of Winston Cup career victories. Petty has been busy beefing up his team the last two years in attempt to regain championship form. Petty Enterprises is actually a two-car operation. Petty's son, Kyle, rejoined the Level Cross, N.C., operation this season. "It's going to take some time to become a championship contender," said Andretti. "But we're getting there." Andretti could get there faster with a good showing Aug. 7. Everyone in NASCAR has a sense of Indy's value and contributions to stock-car racing. The Brickyard 400 has become one of NASCAR's "barometer races," an event that tests the resources of a team and skill of a driver. "The first day they opened the Brickyard 400, it became one of the major NASCAR events," said Andretti. "It's one of the top five NASCAR events. That just shows you how much power Indianapolis Motor Speedway has." Andretti knows all about Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He lived in Indianapolis for a long time before NASCAR pulled him south. He may live in Mooresville, N.C., with his wife and their two kids, but his heart remains on 16th and Georgetown. "Indianapolis is just a neat place," said Andretti. "It's right down the street from where I grew up. I had to pass it everyday on the way to high school. My wife, Nancy, lived within a mile of the racetrack her whole life. It's part of our family. "Indianapolis is the cornerstone of racing. Where else are you going to be able to have the caliber of events like the Indianapolis 500, a major NASCAR Winston Cup event and a Formula One race? Indianapolis is the ONLY place."
BRICKYARD 400 NOTEBOOK
Event schedule: The sixth annual Brickyard 400 starts at 12:15 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 7. Bud Pole Qualifying starts at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 5. Qualifying for starting positions 26-36 begins at 1 p.m. Aug. 6. The first practice session will take place from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 5. Practice continues from 4-4:45 p.m. Aug. 5 and 9:30-noon Aug. 6. Final practice takes place from 2:15-3:15 p.m. Aug. 6.
*** Broadcast schedule: The Brickyard 400 will be broadcast live on ABC and the Indy Racing Radio Network at 1 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 7. ESPN's prerace show starts at noon Aug. 7, while the Indy Racing Radio Network prerace show starts at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 7. ESPN will televise Bud Pole Qualifying live from 2:30-4 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 5. ESPN2 will offer live Bud Pole Qualifying coverage from 4-5 p.m. Aug. 5 and live second-day qualifying from 1-2 p.m. Aug. 6. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast live Bud Pole Qualifying coverage from 2-4 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 5. Qualification wrap-up shows will be broadcast from 6-6:30 p.m. Aug. 5-6. The "Brickyard Live" talk show will be broadcast from 9-10 p.m. Aug. 4-5. ESPN and ESPN2 also will provide thorough coverage of Brickyard 400 practice and race previews Aug. 6. Highlights of "Happy Hour" practice will be shown on ESPN2 from 6-7 p.m., while the "Before They Go Green" preview will be shown on ESPN from 7:30-8:30 p.m.