Andretti Ready for Avenger Debut A New Path To Find a "Happy" Car John Andretti, for the first time, will step behind the wheel of a Dodge Avenger in competition. Andretti will race the Lenox Tools 300 this Sunday at the one-mile New...
Andretti Ready for Avenger Debut
A New Path To Find a "Happy" Car
John Andretti, for the first time, will step behind the wheel of a Dodge Avenger in competition. Andretti will race the Lenox Tools 300 this Sunday at the one-mile New Hampshire International Speedway. Andretti will pilot the #45 Wells Fargo Dodge Avenger in his second start for Petty Enterprises this season. Andretti is filling in for Kyle Petty who returns to the TNT television booth this weekend.
Andretti has had some time to get familiar with the new cars. The team recently tested at the Milwaukee (Wis.) Mile in preparation for Sunday's race.
Andretti has 17 previous starts at the flat one-mile Loudon (N.H.) mile- 10 of those with Petty Enterprises. He has three top-10 and one top-five finish at the track. His best finish is third in 1998 driving for Petty Enterprises. He has started 10th or higher in five races at the track.
Comments from Andretti as he prepares for Sunday's Lenox Tools 300:
"My impressions of the Avenger and the new cars are along the same lines that you hear other drivers and crew chiefs say. The car is really 'top heavy'. They have a really high center of gravity. You get to the corner and deal with that. If you have seen Dale Earnhardt Jr's program, 'Back in The Day' it's really like that. That's the way these cars drive.
"You are sliding around a lot. There isn't much downforce to the cars compared to what people have been used to. You are trying to research and find ways to make this car 'happy'- that path is a lot different than the one we've taken the past several years. It's good from an engineering, team and safety standpoint, but it can be frustrating at times too. There are going to be people that might fall on something before you do. That can make the gap pretty big, quickly. I know Petty Enterprises is working hard to make sure they are the ones falling on something that works, first.
"It's a car that reminds you of back when they were more top heavy. You didn't do all the things with springs and shocks that we got into. The cars were boxier and aerodynamically they weren't as good. In a lot of ways, the Avenger's characteristics are more like that. This is more of a step before I came into stock cars. They are difficult to make work. It's all determined by something that's out of control. The weight of the car is so high. That makes it a learning curve.
"I've come to Petty Enterprises over the past month or so to see what the teams are doing with this car. I tested with the guys at Milwaukee. We didn't get as much time as we hoped. We didn't get into bigger, longer changes, but we did learn some things. We are going to be in 'tuning' mode when we get to New Hampshire. It's so critical to unload with a good car. There isn't a lot of time to make those big changes. Even fine tuning with these cars is more difficult. Everyone is still learning.
"The cars will be fine at New Hampshire. They have raced at so many different tracks. New Hampshire is just a big Martinsville. The things that we fought with the older cars are going to be more apparent with the new cars. You always fight turning in the middle, traction up off the turns and the car is always loose in. You have those troubles at a lot of places, but more at New Hampshire because it is so flat and fast.
"I do like this Avenger. I wish I had more time with it, but Petty Enterprises has a good handle on it. I feel good about it. I want to get in it and get the feedback to Billy (Wilburn) and the Wells Fargo team. I want to give back to Bobby and the Cheerios team as well. Hopefully we can contribute and get out of New Hampshire with a great finish.