This Week in Ford Racing October 5, 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series It was announced today that ppc Racing will field a NEXTEL Cup effort for John Andretti with sponsorship from Victory Brand and APlus at Sunoco starting with next week's...
This Week in Ford Racing
October 5, 2004
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
It was announced today that ppc Racing will field a NEXTEL Cup effort for John Andretti with sponsorship from Victory Brand and APlus at Sunoco starting with next week's Charlotte race and for a full season beginning in 2005. Andretti, who has two career NEXTEL Cup victories - the first of which came behind the wheel of a Ford - spoke about the opportunity to return to NEXTEL Cup racing at a press conference at Lowe's Motor Speedway this afternoon.
JOHN ANDRETTI -No. 14-VB/APlus at Sunoco Ford Taurus
YOU WERE THE FASTEST CAR LAST WEEK DURING THE TEST SESSION AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY. WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR NEXT WEEK AND THE REST OF THIS SEASON?
"We came here and tested. We had a great test and we've got a small team put together right now and it's growing. We're only a little more than 30 days old. We've got four race cars, been to a test, we're going to some races and we have a lot more testing in front of us. It's a great program with Ford. They're behind this program at tier one levels, so we're getting the same technical support as their primary teams of Roush and Robert Yates Racing. All of those things work together collectively, and, obviously, it puts me in a great position. We're giving birth to something new that is extremely exciting with a lot of great people. For me to be part of it, I'm overwhelmed in a lot of ways and delighted and looking forward to being part of all of the success we're going to have in the future. It is good to be back in the saddle. It was great to get to drive for DEI and all of the things I've learned from them and what a great organization they are and they taught me a lot. This is a whole new start and I'm looking forward to it and the building process and hopefully the building process is quick. That's the plan is to get out here at Charlotte and hopefully run competitively. You never know, but that's our plan."
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND THE NUMBER 14 THAT YOU'VE CHOSEN TO RUN?
"I'm Italian but my godfather is not. My godfather is A.J. Foyt. When all of this started coming together, I started to think about what number are we going to do? You want it to have some significance and actually my first real full-time number in NASCAR was 14, but more importantly it's A.J.'s number. I started thinking about it and I talked to Greg (Pollex) about it and he thought it was a great idea so I called A.J. Actually, A.J. said, 'If I can help you, let's do it.' We're really wanting A.J. come to the races and feel part of this deal, too, even though he's got a lot of other things going on. In a way, I guess because 14 is on the car he's always going to be a part of it. That was important to me. I raced for A.J. a couple of times in Indianapolis. We ran 10th both times, but we should have run better, and he'll tell you that probably. I think there is a lot of significance in that number to me. Like I said, every piece of this has been thought out, and it's actually taken some time to put together. By Cup standards and by sponsorship standards, I think it's all happened very quickly as well."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT BEING A ONE-CAR ORGANIZATION IN A SPORT WITH SO MANY MULTI-CAR TEAMS?
"At first the question was a fair one, but now we feel like we're not a one-car team. We're part of Ford, which is a huge camp. Robert Yates Racing has been tremendous in their help. It's been phenomenal to work with them and they actually had a couple of people come out and talk us through some of the things they've worked with. Dave Charpentier has been talking to all the people back there. Todd Parrott has been great. All of the people, I never expected the kind of support that we've got. It's been overwhelming and from Ford, in a lot of ways the success that ppc has had, you look at it and you say they're going to be supportive. But even they've gone beyond, and Robert Yates Racing has been tremendous."
DO YOU EXPECT HELP FROM THE FORD DRIVERS AS WELL?
"I think we can expect a little bit of help from them. Maybe a little less than a normal teammate would get, but I think from the standpoint that we can go to them, obviously, we're going to be racing Ford engines built by Robert Yates and those things help. It's keeps the tie going, and we have people that I feel I can go to and say, 'What do we need to know here? This is path we're heading down, are we going right or wrong?'"
WHEN DID THIS SPONSORSHIP TALKS START?
"All of that started a long time ago. When I say a long time ago, it was probably about a year ago. I got a phone call from Steve Swick of Victory Brand and started talking about different things. Of course, at that point there really wasn't a lot to talk about because there was cigarette sponsorship in NASCAR. It wasn't the right timing, and now it was and with great partners like APlus at Sunoco, which creates the huge avenue for retail and the partnership that works together. It's all like magic bringing the whole thing together and seeing it come together. And all of the people have been so good to work with. There's a lot of enthusiasm even just today walking up. I thought I would be the guy that was jumping out of his skin and maybe the only one that's getting all the way out, but you see the people from APlus and you see the people from VB and you see the people from ppc and Farmer's tobacco, the people the produce the cigarette for VB. The partnerships just go on, it's just such a great avenue for us. There's just a lot going on and it's a lot of fun. And then don't forget about the number with A.J. Five years from now we're still going to have a lot to talk about."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE ABLE TO USE A.J. FOYT'S NUMBER?
"It's means a lot to me. It means a huge amount to me because A.J. being my godfather and being able to call him ands talk to him about it, and his first words out of his mouth were, 'Whatever I can do to help. What do you need?' He's always been like that. I know the A.J. that is a competitor and I owe a lot to him and it goes beyond a number. I remember when I won my first Midget race many moons ago. He called me up and my dad used to call up and act like Jackie Stewart or something, and I thought he was imitating A.J. and I actually hung up on A.J. and he had to call me back. To me, that was bigger than any trophy or anything else I got winning the race was having A.J. call me because I didn't think he knew that I was around. We talked for a long time and I think that we're pretty close and this just meant a lot to me that he would allow us to this."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT MAKING YOUR RETURN TO CUP RACING UNDER THE LIGHTS AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY?
"It'd be nice to go to a track that wasn't quite as fickle. You go out for qualifying, and you could be flying in practice, and then you can go out for qualifying and struggle. I think we've got a great team and we're just going to stay focused and do the best we can and work through every little detail the best that we can and do the best job that we can. I think right now we're probably peaked in the sense we're almost like the top 10 guys that are working toward that championship. They don't want to miss any detail and that's sort of where we're at right now. The difference is that they've been racing all year long and we're coming back out to do it here shortly."
HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT BEING AT HOME ON THE WEEKENDS AND WATCHING THE RACES ON TELEVISION?
"It bothers me a lot to see all those guys having a lot of fun and not be there. Also, you have friends at the race track. You work with so many different people. I got to go to a lot of soccer games and horse shows, but there's still something missing. It's not the case like a Mark Martin or a Rusty Wallace, those guys that really have completed their career and have gotten so much out of it. I feel like I've left so much behind and still have a lot that I need to accomplish and my window is short. Really, to be able to do it with an organization like this is great. We don't have a lot of time to build because what I want to accomplish has to happen pretty quickly, and so I'm pushing hard and they're pushing hard and we know the hill is huge. You cut the cup and it's straight up. It's iced and it's greased down and it's got everything wrong with it, in the sense off trying to climb it, but we're going to do the best we can to get up it."
WHAT WAS IT THAT BROUGHT YOU TO PPC RACING?
"A lot of it has to do with people. This whole business is based on people. We talked about cars, we talked about equipment, we talked about everything else, but it's people. It's the same parts and pieces and yet it's putting an organization together. Talking to Greg Pollex, I compare him a lot to Richard Petty. When I drove for The King it was like, 'I want to give you the tools and I want you to use them.' Really, it's a lot like that. I'm looking forward to getting the same satisfaction out of driving for Greg that I got for driving for Richard. I've learned so much from DEI, too. I've kind of got the full gamut of people and I know how important people are, and I've worked with some great people. That's what it's been all about. I've always known that all of the parts and pieces can be assembled. That's the easy part and we're working real hard on getting the right people, and that's why it's still a little team and it's going to be a little team for probably some time yet because not everybody that comes in, although there are a lot of great people out there, they may not fit within where the group is now. I don't know. I like the way it's coming together and I know that with Greg and talking with to him that we're going to do this right."
WHAT WAS THE DECIDING FACTOR FOR YOU TO SIGN THE CONTRACT WITH PPC RACING?
"Everything. Even just talking to Ford. I know the people inside Ford probably better than anybody else. I know the manufacturers pretty well, and I've got some friendships inside there and talked to them and talked to them about ppc, and ppc's record in Busch really speaks for itself. Based on all of that, the decision was really quite easy. Like I said, coming from an organization like DEI, I learned so much about how to put something together and what I'd like to see be put together for a championship-caliber team. You learn more than just driving race cars or what you see on the race car. You're learning about the race cars and you get to learn the whole thing."