John Andretti Rockingham preview

DETROIT (Oct. 17, 2000) - This week the NASCAR Winston Cup drivers turn their attention back to unrestricted racing at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C., and it's a welcome sight for most of them. Cheerios/STP Pontiac Grand Prix driver...

DETROIT (Oct. 17, 2000) - This week the NASCAR Winston Cup drivers turn their attention back to unrestricted racing at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C., and it's a welcome sight for most of them. Cheerios/STP Pontiac Grand Prix driver John Andretti is among those who is looking forward to a little less chaos and a little less mystery in Sunday's race on the 1.017-mile oval. According to Andretti, the most nerve-wracking part of the upcoming weekend may be the pit crew world championship, which is slated for the Winston Cup teams Saturday morning.

JOHN ANDRETTI , NO. 43 CHEERIOS/STP PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

...on feeling good about going to Rockingham after running a restrictor-plate event: "In a lot of ways Talladega is a race where you don't know what is going to happen. It's sort of a big unknown. When you go back to a place like Rockingham, it stays a little more consistent. You know going to bed that night whether you're going to have a good car or a bad car, and what you've got to do. It's just back to more of a typical deal like we're used to.

"I think when you go to Rockingham you get rewarded for having a good race car - a good handling race car. There's more to a track like that where you have to get all the way out of the gas and get back in. You've really got to get the set-up right. That's why you have what you have at Talladega because even if your car is a little off, these guys are really talented people and they can hang on to just about whatever they've got, keep it up there and keep pushing.

"At Rockingham you know the cars that are running good. In Talladega if somebody says, 'How's your car running,' all I can say is, 'I don't know,' because it's only going to run as good as the people you're around. But don't get me wrong, I don't mind going there (to Talladega). I thought the fans got treated to a good race. They would have gotten treated to a great race if I had won, but unfortunately they only got a good race."

...do drivers look forward to the season being over to "catch their breath?": "I don't. I do like the odd weekend off here and there because it does let you catch your breath, especially if you've had a tough season. This season the guy that probably wants to get it over the most, I would think, if I were in his position, would be Bobby Labonte. I'd want to get this behind me, go on, get all the hardware, put it on my mantle and start over.

"For me, the end of the season comes but my life doesn't stop. I don't think I get a breather. I'm just not in a race car. I'm involved in racing to drive race cars - not because I'm excited about doing PR work, doing other things and standing in front of a camera smiling for a photo shoot or something. That's not why I got into racing. For me the job never changes because your job is more than driving the race car, so why not do what you love? Then again, you can't do it week in and week out because of your family. I mean I haven't made it to one of my son's soccer games. They rescheduled one for this week and said, 'Yeah, yeah that ought to be good,' and now I'm going out of town, so that gets pretty frustrating for me. But as far as going on the road - no. I go and I get to race. I'm lucky that I get to do what I love for a living, not to say that I wouldn't rather be at home. But if I'm going to go on the road for three days, I want to do three races.

"It's not that I don't like taking a break. I love that time. But when we get a weekend off, it's almost like you need two weekends because the first one you're confused. You don't know why you're not doing something. Our pastor wonders why we're in church. That's how he knows when we get a weekend off."

...is it enjoyable for you to shift the spotlight to your pit crew during this week's pit crew championship at Rockingham?: "No, because it puts all the pressure on us (drivers). They think the pressure is on them, but you can really mess up that deal easily. When you come in for other pit stops, if you slide through a little bit you just back up and say, 'OK, I messed that one up.' But you're going to have six or seven more tries at it. It's not like it's the end of the world. But this is their one time that they can really showcase all their hard work. They're just like drivers. We just don't show up at the racetrack, and climb in the car and go racing. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes and it's absolutely no different for the pit crew guys now. They work hard to get into condition and get into those positions. They have to earn those spots and keep earning those spots, so there is a lot of pressure. They work awfully hard for that. You want them to have a good stop so that they can be proud. It's the one time that their families at home can really watch what they do and it's not all about the driver.

"And believe me, I'm not trying to turn it into being something about the driver. But I get more nervous about that than probably qualifying, just because I don't want to mess it up for them." ####

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Bobby Labonte