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ANDRETTI LOOKING FOR A CHANGE IN FORTUNE, LABONTE HOPING TO KEEP HIS GOING DETROIT (April 4, 2000) - STP/Cheerios Pontiac Grand Prix driver John Andretti claimed his second career victory last spring when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visited ...


DETROIT (April 4, 2000) - STP/Cheerios Pontiac Grand Prix driver John Andretti claimed his second career victory last spring when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visited Martinsville Speedway, and he did it in impressive fashion. He made up a lap during the race, and then passed Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton, two of the best drivers in the business, to grab the win.

This week Andretti heads to Martinsville needing a shot in the arm after enduring a tough start to the 2000 season. But despite his team's struggles, Andretti has the same fire in his eyes as he chases a break-out run and his third career win.

While Andretti looks to end his fortunes, Bobby Labonte will be looking to continue his. Labonte, who drives the Interstate Batteries Grand Prix, has enjoyed a great start to his 2000 campaign and is hoping Martinsville keeps him on track as he pursues his first Winston Cup title.


... how gratifying was last year's win? "I think it was especially gratifying for a lot of different reasons. One being the obvious, coming from behind like we did and being able to win. But I think so many people looked at me as 'the speedway driver' - Daytona and Talladega. It was nice to go from winning at one of the fastest tracks to winning at the slowest track that we race at, and a short track, which is more what I grew up on. I think it was especially gratifying that way. Also, when you're not in the high-profile position you always like to give them one of those, 'Where did he come from?' There is a lot of satisfaction in that as well. I've got a lot of supporters. I believe in the media and the fans and the like. But you always like to take those supporters and let them say, 'Hey look, I told you it was going to happen.' It's a lot of individual things too. You almost need to talk to Ward about winning at Rockingham and then working so hard with everything coming together again for Darlington. There is a lot more satisfaction than for somebody that's got everything in line. Things don't stay in line always forever either. I think there is proof of that several times over in any series."

... what it meant to run down Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon to get his second win: "When you're doing it, you don't even think about it. But afterwards it's very gratifying because they are so hard to beat and it just doesn't happen. Late in the race I realized I was reeling the two Jeffs in and anything less was going to be forgotten. That's not what you go for anyway. I race every race to win. I'll end up on the short end more often than I'll end up on the right end by trying to win instead of taking what it will give me. I don't know that that is ever going to change inside me, but that's the way I drive and that's what I was there to do. I felt like I had a problem in my car but it didn't matter at that point. If I lost the brakes and hit the wall head on, it was better than not trying to win and being satisfied. If you're going to be satisfied with second or third, then why race?"

... on racing to win versus racing for points: "Because you're trying to win, it's all based on performance. If you're not nipping at the front then it's very disappointing. I don't care where I finished or how many points I got if I didn't give myself an opportunity to be up there. It's extremely difficult in Winston Cup. Even the best of them have bad days, and they typically have more bad days than good days. Just look at the difference one year makes for a lot of people. I can hardly stand it not to run really good. And neither can the guys on the team. That's why I think we are good together because they stand behind me. If I make a mistake trying to really go for it all, I get full support. And the same goes the other way. We've tried to win races and it bit us big time, whether it be fuel mileage or whatever. I didn't care. I was happy that we did that because I didn't want to run fifth. I wanted to try and win. If we've got a shot at winning, accepting anything less makes no sense to me, unless you're leading the championship. And I think that is how you eventually end up winning the championship and being a contender. That's all you focus and concentrate on. And eventually you get smart and realize you've got to collect points, too."

... can he win again at Martinsville?: "Yeah. I think we can win at a lot of different places. That's really important. The ultimate goal is not to be mediocre. The ultimate goal is to win races and eventually put yourself at least in the position of contending for a championship. In everybody's mind Mark Martin is as much a champion today as he would be if he had the championship ring on because he has been there. He's proven that he's there. It's only a matter of fractions that he doesn't have the ring. I think there is a lot of pride in that. You want to have something like that to hang your hat on."

... he and his team maintaining focus in the middle of a tough season?: "I really believe in the people that I'm with. I know that today, tomorrow and the next day, that their goals are the same as mine, and that they are striving just as hard for them, and that they are just as frustrated as I am. But everybody is still working together. There has never been a bad word ever said at Petty's from one employee to another. I think it's really an unusual race team in that sense that you really have a team. It's not a group of individuals that are like, 'OK, where is my paycheck?'

... riding to the track with Jeff and Kim Burton: "I rode up to Martinsville with them last year. And it's funny, when we travel someplace together it seems like one of us wins. I think he has done it three times and I've done it once. As a matter of fact, he even asked me to ride with him to Darlington. I told him no because I already had a ride, plus it would probably just be helping him."

... will he ride with them again this year?: "I think it would be nice if we rode together. Jeff runs awful strong there, too, and I wouldn't mind him being able to pull another one off if we can't. But the primary goal obviously would be for us to win."


... his impressions of Martinsville: "Martinsville is a tough racetrack. It's kind of like Bristol in a way. Anything can happen to you there quickly. It's like anywhere, but there it just happens so quickly. We've had our good runs and we've had some that weren't so good. But I think for the most part our more recent runs have got us encouraged to go back and feel good about racing there."

... on the team's recent improvement at Martinsville: "Again it's kind of like Bristol. We have run good there sometimes and we haven't had the finish to show it. Last fall was another example. I'm not saying we would have finished first, but we were leading with 40 laps to go. When we go there this weekend it will be no different than any other racetrack. We'll go out there and do the best that we can and kind of let the cards fall where they fall. If we're good, we're good. If we're not, we're not. We don't always have the option of making it good every time, but we can try our best."

... do short tracks make him more worried about something going wrong? "In a way. Anything can happen anywhere. You've just got to take your lumps as you go. If it happens, it happens. Bristol is a good example. At Bristol we always have bad luck. We always have something go wrong or are always in the wrong place at the wrong time and can't seem to break it. This time there I drove to the truck after the race was over. I knew I didn't win, but I felt like I won. I'm not saying we'll do that every weekend, but it gives us some confidence to go and not worry about it. We're not going to go out there and creep around on our tippy-toes trying to be careful because we've got to race, too."

... when does he start watching the point standings? "I don't know. I haven't done that before. It doesn't matter who you are racing against or who you are racing with for points. You just go out there each weekend and do the best you can do. You've got 34 races a season and you just go out there and it's like this: if we can run good and finish this race, and then we go home. Monday morning we wake up, read the paper and there it is - ain't nothing you can do about it. If you dig yourself a hole, it's because you are worried about it. But if you go out and run every race like you're not worried about it, I think that's the way you try to approach it, even though it will work on you, even though you've got to be careful. If you go out there the next three races and finish 35th or worse, yeah you dig yourself a hole. But it's not because you're thinking about points, it's because you had three races that you screwed up on. You try to accomplish all you can through that weekend. If you can't win you want to finish second. If you can't finish second you want to finish third and on down the line. The points will take care of themselves."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Mark Martin