Pocono John Andretti preview

DETROIT (July 18, 2000) - John Andretti and his Petty Enterprises teammates are in the middle of a very important project. Over the past several weeks they have started to gain momentum, especially in qualifying where Andretti has two front row...

DETROIT (July 18, 2000) - John Andretti and his Petty Enterprises teammates are in the middle of a very important project. Over the past several weeks they have started to gain momentum, especially in qualifying where Andretti has two front row starts in the last month, including one at Pocono Raceway back in June. Now they have sharpened their focus on turning those great starts into great races, which is something that has eluded them so far in 2000. But Andretti, who drives the No. 43 Cheerios/STP Pontiac Grand Prix, is confident as the series returns to Pocono this week that a great race is on the horizon. It's just a matter of when that first one comes and how many of them follow.

Along with his on-track commitments, Andretti is also preparing to host his annual charity event in his hometown of Indianapolis, Ind., which is something he also carries a passion for equal to his passion for racing itself.

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

...what will it take to turn his recent qualifying success into good race runs?: "I think that if we don't take ourselves out, or parts and pieces don't take us out, or somebody else doesn't take us out, it will all come right.

"At Pocono, whether you call it unfortunate or whether you call it a mistake, we had a loose wheel and had to pit. We had a good car - not to say we were going to win, but a good result was there. At Loudon we had a real good car, but broke a valve spring early in the race.

"We're always working to get better and better, and I don't think that we're that far off. At Daytona we were nowhere near as good as we needed to be and we finished 14th. That's not a good result, but I felt that based on where we were at compared to our other cars, that was about a 30th place car. I look at where we're at and I know we've got a lot of good things going on. It's not from not trying a lot of stuff. We try everything we can think of, and I'm not just talking about stuff you can change (on the car). I'm talking about stuff you can dream up, too. Most of it doesn't work, but every now and then you hit on something."

...does this team learn from its mistakes?: "Yeah. We start right at the racetrack working hard to correct whatever we can. We're not the only team out there that has things happen to it. It's just that I think we are right there, but yet we haven't been able to capitalize on what we're capable of doing. I think I'd be worried if we weren't running good and we weren't doing anything to address it. I feel like we are. I feel real comfortable with it.

"In '98 when I first came back (to Petty Enterprises) I always said that people were going to say, 'Where did he come from?' As things have started hitting our way a little bit we started making it to the front. We continued that in '99.

"Towards the end of '99 I think we lost a little bit of focus. But now through all the changes I think we're back on track. That doesn't mean we're going to go out and win next weekend, but it sure means that we're getting a lot closer to being able to do that."

...how often does this team hold team meetings?: "We meet 24 hours a day. If you think of something you call somebody and you talk about it. You don't wait and talk about it later. There are obviously a lot of things going on at Petty Enterprises. There are some major decisions being made. You know everything that's going on, but you don't get involved in everything that is going on. You try to stay in your circle, the things that you're best at. Somebody else's circle overlaps yours, and I think Petty Enterprises is good for that. When you get that overlap and you can pick up for somebody that is maybe not there or is having a bad day at that point in time, that is what's important.

"We've left racetracks disappointed, but we never leave them looking at somebody feeling like we've got to blame him. We go home and we work it out. It may be me or it may be somebody else. Not everybody is going to be perfect, but the guys that get it close to being perfect on any single day are the guys that win. It's a bunch of average guys everywhere. You've just got to help each other excel. You've got to dig deep and I think that's the difference between the guys that win and the guys that don't. It's not just the driver, it's everybody."

...on his annual charity event: "It's a low key event that we started. It's a go-kart race in Indianapolis and this will be the fourth annual. We raise money for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

"I have a brother and sister who have both been in that hospital. In Winston Cup sometimes it seems like the same people always benefit, so we tried to change that a little bit. It started out pretty low key, but last year we raised $55,000 for the charity in one day, so we're pretty proud of that. Now Cheerios is behind it and this year Kyle (Petty) is going to participate, so that will be big. We also moved it to the week of the Brickyard (400) this year (Aug.1) instead of doing it at Christmas, which is another move we made to help raise money. It put us more on target with what we're trying to do. But it's just a good time.

"I do a local radio show every week in Indianapolis on WIBC with a friend, Dave (The King) Wilson. It's a popular show and I'm lucky to be part of it. The producer, Matt Hibbeln, kind of poked at me. He doesn't know much about racing - probably doesn't know much about anything else. But he poked fun at me, so we started this rivalry that led to this go-kart event. He claimed that I couldn't beat anybody, including himself. The first year I pretty much laid him in the weeds. It was just he and I. Then the next year we had other people race with us, and he finished dead last in that. Last year we had a lot more opportunity for him (to beat somebody) and fortu nately for him he finished second from last in both races, so he feels pretty proud of that."

...does he ever think about the total financial impact of all his charity work during a year?: "It doesn't matter what the final number is. The thing you look at is you always get a letter back from people appreciating what you've done, telling you that they raised money for this or they raised money for that. It pretty much boggles your mind. But we're only part of it. People buy the things we sign, and sometimes I think they just do it because they feel like they're giving rather than getting. In the meantime, they're all having fun doing it.

"It's amazing. We get a lot of charity requests. Of course you can't respond to 100 percent of them because if you did, you'd never do any racing."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti