JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T) "Our car was really good yesterday. When we went out the track had changed a lot. It slicked up a bunch. I fired it in there, and I probably should have felt the first lap out a little better. I...
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Our car was really good yesterday. When we went out the track had changed a lot. It slicked up a bunch. I fired it in there, and I probably should have felt the first lap out a little better. I felt like we had a car that could hold it and it couldn't. I lost it getting in the corner. I had to chase it up the track. That really killed both laps. You've got nothing in the book to go off of, so the next lap had to be really, really conservative. Obviously I didn't know what turn one would hold, so I kind of rode through there really slow. You don't want to start last. We lost a lot of time between practice and qualifying and we're still starting 27th. We're in a decent spot. We can run from there. We've been in the back here before. We've been in the front here before but we always seem to get closer to the front.
"This track is like Martinsville a little bit, but it doesn't drive quite the same. I've got a good feel for this track, and we've got a good setup. I hear some guys say they changed the tire and we have to use a different setup. My setup was almost exactly like last year. We changed a couple of things, but not much. I don't see the big difference in tires. The tires are the most important part of the car, absolutely, because it's the only thing that's got contact with the ground. To optimize the tires is how you optimize the car. Optimizing the tire they have now is much more difficult because it has a much smaller working range. It's easier to get outside that, and it's getting all four to work. The tire is pretty much everything, and it's up to the crews to get them working the best they can.
"I think they've got the consistency a lot better than they used to. It used to be just terrible. You used to pray that your last set was the right set. I think they do enough analysis of the tires now before they put them on the cars. They do the rating, when their built and who builds them. It wasn't necessarily a bad set in the past. It was just you might have a tire in there that rated different or was built at a different time. The tire is really, really critical.
"The track is a little longer now because the corners are out further. Now everybody wishes they could start on the outside. The guys that started on the inside before had a huge advantage. Guys would hug the white line, and it was really difficult to pass somebody even if you were quicker. You had to really set 'em up to get 'em as you came off the corner and then you had to go into a drag race thing and dive bomb 'em in the next corner. That's similar to Martinsville. Now, I think you might be able to get position on a guy and stay up underneath him coming off the corner. They're going to race in on the outside of you, which they couldn't do before. One answer creates another problem.
"Out front is the guy who's leading. If you're second, you're not out front. You're up front, but you're not out front. There's a big difference. The further you get back there, the worse it gets. This isn't the first year we've felt this. This has been going on for some time. You see a guy running good up front and then he gets stuck in the middle of the pack and the performance will change dramatically. You get shuffled back and all of a sudden you can't drive it. You get up front and the car is really good.
"It depends on what the strategy is fuel wise, getting to pit windows. You don't want to be pitting under green and the other guys catch a caution. At a place like this, you're done. At least before if you were a lap down you could race the guy hard enough to get your lap back. You had the preferred lane. Now the preferred lane is not the bottom.
"I guess when there's only one seat left and I'm the only driver left, then they'll figure it out. I don't have any plans to leave Winston Cup. Other people might have plans for me to leave Winston Cup, but I don't. I want to still do the 500. I've never hidden that, but I haven't got to do it since I did it in 1994. I'm not the most impossible guy in the world to deal with. There are things I want, but I can appreciate when you sit down and talk about it, I'd like to think I'm rational, and I try to do the right thing. Even if there was an answer, it wouldn't be up to me to talk about it. Then they go to Kyle, and Kyle just circles the question. We did sit down and talk. It was a great opportunity to ask him a lot of questions about a lot of things. Kyle has always got something going on. He's got time for you, but sometimes it's hard to squeeze in, so it was good for me. I only had simple things to ask. He was talking about the future and I was talking about the present, so we were on two different wave lengths. The future is what it is. Right now we've got to make the present as good as it can be so the future is better and brighter for everybody.
"We've got R&D things going on that we haven't had before. Kyle was paying for things and really wasn't having somebody oversee it. Now we've got Robin Pemberton. He's been a blessing for us. He's really taken the bull by the horns, and he's been 100 percent committed making things the best they can be. It always comes in baby steps. You'd like for it to come quicker than that, but if you look at where we were a year ago, we were scrambling and struggling. Now when we have our problems, we just don't get the pole. We're stepping up and getting closer and closer. We're getting closer to where we were when Robbie Loomis left.
"We switched to Dodge, added a team, switched engine programs, now I think we've got one of the best engine programs in the series. All the pieces are coming together. Kyle's team is consistent. Instead of everything going against Kyle, I think things are going for him. Last year, if something was going to happen, it was going to happen to Kyle. This year, the first couple of races it started that way. Since then, I don't think much has landed against him. He starts building confidence. Kyle has a real good perspective on everything. He's realistic about things. He's more realistic than I am. I don't care what the situation is, I know I can win the race. I'm not going to do anything but win. He will, too, but he also looks at it in another way. Kyle says if everybody is fighting for a spot and a guy ends up taking him out because he's an idiot, then it's kind of his fault for racing with the idiot. There's only one or two of them out there, but NASCAR should focus on them because they're destroying a lot of other people's equipment, and it's not right. Their driving style is very ugly in my opinion.
"I've been hammered in the ground so hard, not by anybody other than myself. You really want to perform. The fact that the pole was within our grasp yesterday, I'd probably have been more upset with myself if I hadn't gone for it than going for it and missing it. I went for it and really got it wrong. If I'd gone out there and just got a lap in, to me that would have been a waste. I was mad, but I try to control in more publicly.
"We unloaded in qualifying trim and it was really fast and we made it better and better. This is one of the 44 cars. It's better than the other one. We've got one car that I was going to come in at night and paint it with a 44 or 45 so I wouldn't have to run it again, but this is a good car and hopefully we can have a good run with it Sunday and give everybody a run for their money."