Andretti spells ill Stewart By Dan McCorriston SONOMA Calif., (June 25, 2000) Sometimes, fate plays a big part in the outcome of a race. For Tony Stewart and John Andretti, Sunday's Save Mart/Kragen 350 at Sears Point was fateful indeed. The...
Andretti spells ill Stewart
By Dan McCorriston
SONOMA Calif., (June 25, 2000) Sometimes, fate plays a big part in the outcome of a race. For Tony Stewart and John Andretti, Sunday's Save Mart/Kragen 350 at Sears Point was fateful indeed. The race marked the end of an era for Petty Enterprises as it was the last
event with STP sponsorship of the No. 43 Pontiac. Andretti started the race in 16th position and looked strong during the opening laps. On lap 19, however, he was caught in a wreck and ruptured his oil line.
"I slowed up but the guys behind me didn't know about the wreck I guess and got up in back of me, and drive me into the guy in front of me," said Andretti. "We broke an oil line, caught fire and did all that. It's just disappointing to the whole team. I think we had a good car. I don't know if we were capable of winning , but we were going to give them a run for it."
Ironically, Richard Petty's last ride in the No. 43 STP Pontiac went out the same way in Atlanta in 1992. The similarities did not escape Andretti.
"I looked at the burned car and all I could think of was Atlanta," said Andretti. "The King's last race - when the thing caught fire and was all burned up. I thought, 'Well, at least we're going out in style.'"
Meanwhile, the No. 20 The Home Depot Pontiac was running solidly in the top-5, but Stewart was feeling run down. Halfway through the race, he knew he would have to come out of the car.
"It's hard," said Stewart. "Nobody likes to get out of a car, especially one they know can win the race. I don't know what was wrong. I haven't felt 100 percent all weekend, but I didn't feel bad enough like I needed to go to a doctor or anything. But I guess it caught up with me finally.
"I knew quite a bit before that I got out that I was in trouble. They were trying to talk to me and do everything they could to distract me from what was bothering me. That helped for a little while but it couldn't fix it."
The only thing they need was a backup driver. As fate should have it, another notable Pontiac driver was already out of the race. Andretti agreed to drive for the No. 20 team, although he would have rather finished in STP blue.
"Some day (Stewart) may be able to help me out," said Andretti. "Who knows. It's hot here in Sonoma. Last year it was tough on us. They red-flagged the race and made us sit in the car for 40 minutes, then ran the last four laps and I was pooped then, so I know what it's like. I was happy to help out. I was very unhappy I was available to help out though."
The No. 20 The Home Depot team was lucky to get a replacement of Andretti's caliber, although there was some concern if his small frame would fit in Stewart's ride. As it turned out, he fit just fine. Andretti piloted the car to a 10th-place finish.
In the end, the No. 20 Pontiac team got their backup driver and Andretti got a chance to finish the race. Ultimately, fate provided a solution for two near disasters.