No Petty Differences Here

Share:
Andretti and Petty are two of the most famous names in motorsports. Put the two together, and you have a match made in heaven.

The two have been together for four years now, but it’s hardly been a smooth marriage. In fact, most marriages like this – especially in the topsy-turvy world of NASCAR Winston Cup racing – would have never lasted this long.

John Andretti joined Petty Enterprises in 1998, and that year was productive enough. Andretti finished 11th in the final points standings. He slipped to 17th in 1999 but did manage to win a race at Martinsville Speedway.

The slide, though, was out of control, like a driver hitting a patch of oil at 190 mph. In 2000, Andretti dropped to 23rd in the points with no top-five finishes. And 2001 was simply a disaster. The famous No. 43 was a Dodge again, but that didn’t help its performance.

Andretti had more trouble than he cares to think about, finishing 14th or worse in all but two races. And the biggest hurt came in the Coca-Cola 600, where Andretti failed to qualify.

So why does Andretti stick around? Why don’t the Pettys divorce him?

These guys are from the old school. They don’t believe in divorce, or so it seems. Andretti knows there are troubles, but he’s not about to throw away what could be a good thing.

“Kyle (Petty) has got a real target on where he sees Petty Enterprises going,” Andretti said. “It makes a lot of sense to me, and I agree with it all. It’s easy to stay with a team when you agree with their philosophies. No team is perfect, even the guy who wins the championship has problems.

“But I think our problems are solvable. The hard part is the people, and I’ve got great people working on my cars. Kyle has hired some wonderful people.”

In a sense, you could call Robin Pemberton and Mike Ege marriage counselors. Pemberton joined Petty Enterprises as vice president/general manager, and he brings plenty of knowledge and experience. He’s an outside voice that should bring some harmony to the relationship.

“Robin (Pemberton) is great because Robin didn’t come in with a cape on or as a savior,” Andretti said. “He came in as a guy willing to help if he could. He looked around and saw what was going on, and now he’s providing input in a real constructive way. He’s a guy that can come in and be a real talented guy at what he does, and he can also come in and tear down what’s already been built.

“Maybe our foundation has not gone up as quick as we wanted it to, but Robin has come in and shown us what is good and what we need to work on. I think he’s great. His personality is as great an asset as his experience and knowledge.”

Ege will be the Pettys’ new engine builder, and he comes from Robert Yates Racing. He’ll bring plenty of spunk to the Pettys, perhaps sparking some new interest.

“They’ve got a plan,” Andretti said of the team’s new engine builders. “They’ve got to work on reliability and performance. Those two are always pretty conflicting. Those first four races are real important for us. Hopefully, we can get the cars back in the points so if we stub our toes in qualifying, we don’t miss a race.”

Qualifying wasn’t a big problem last year for Andretti. He started 11th or better nine times, including six top-10 starts in the final 15 races. But Andretti’s problem came once the green flag dropped on Sundays. If he wasn’t running well, he was running into other cars or walls.

“We didn’t have stability last year,” Andretti said. “You’ve heard the quote ‘consistently inconsistent.’ That’s one of the things you can’t be in Winston Cup. We had a lot of outside problems, and that just murders you. You can’t afford to have any bad races. Then we’d be in other races where we’d get involved in a crash or whatever. You just never walked away from a weekend where you thought that was it.

“The guys did a great job at Bristol (where Andretti finished second), and even there the frame broke when I got bumped in the wall. That hurt our chances of coming out any better. I know everybody else has problems, too, so I don’t worry about the problems. I just worry about fixing what we’ve got. If we can fix what we’ve got, we’ll be fine.”

Of course, that’s about as easy as fixing a broken marriage. There are countless variables involved, but Petty Enterprises finally seems willing to work on them, one by one.

The switch to Dodge, though, is not one of the variables, Andretti said. Even though the Petty teams – Andretti, Petty and Buckshot Jones – were often the slowest of the Dodge contingent, Andretti said there were other reasons.

“People said going to Dodge last year was an issue,” Andretti said. “No, it wasn’t an issue. There was a transition there, but Dodge wasn’t the reason we weren’t successful. We didn’t implement what we had successfully. Now we are, and last year we added a third team, and all the other things that happened fell on us at once. That probably had a bigger effect on things than anything else.

“Starting a new team is difficult enough. Even if you’ve got one car that’s successful, starting a second car is hard, and starting a third is even more difficult.”

The three teams will plow into 2002 with renewed hope for success. Andretti, though, is content to take it slow, knowing, “It’s not like we struggled last year and now we’re going to run 1-2-3 in the championship.

"It’s not that simple,” he added.

But as long as the team is trying to get better, Andretti will try to get better with the team.

“I met with my guys and asked them what our goals should be,” Andretti said. “My goals have always been pretty simple. I just want to do better than the year before, but that wouldn’t be a good goal this year. I said let’s take 1998 and 1999 and say we’re going to do better than those two years. This team is capable of doing it.

“Win a race and getting up in the points where we belong are the goals. There are no illusions of grandeur here. It’s not like we’re going to go out and win the championship, but I tell you what, Sterling Marlin probably didn’t think he was going to run as good as he did last year. I’d rather be on the conservative side, but I really won’t be surprised if we get better.”

Marriages, it seems, take a lot of time and effort. The effort has been put forth, and now Andretti needs time.

Photos

  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Pure Michigan 400
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Chicagoland Testing
  • Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race - Bristol
  • Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race - Bristol
  • Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race - Bristol
  • From the Archives: Bristol
  • From the Archives: Bristol
  • From the Archives: Bristol
  • From the Archives: Bristol
  • From the Archives: Bristol
  • From the Archives: Bristol
  • From the Archives: Bristol
  • From the Archives: Bristol
Click to View More

Advertisement

You may unsubscribe at any time.
Motor Racing Network
555 MRN Drive
Concord, NC 28027
www.mrn.com/Footer/Contact-Us.aspx
(704)262-6700
feedback@mrn.com
  • © 2016 MRN. All Rights Reserved

    FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousLinkedInGoogle BookmarksYahoo BookmarksLive (MSN)

    ISC Track Sites