Since he first drove go-karts at the age of 9, John Andretti has competed in numerous forms of auto racing — from USAC midgets to Indy cars to NHRA Top Fuel dragsters. After 12 full seasons in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, Andretti has moved into the Busch Series this season, where he’s in the running for the series’ Rookie of the Year honors.

Andretti admits that he has learned quite a bit during his first full season in NASCAR’s Busch Series.

“It’s been exciting!” Andretti said during a recent conversation. “These cars are totally different than ones in the Nextel Cup. It took a while to learn to set up like a Busch car, instead of like a Nextel car.”

Three top 10 finishes (through July 22) have helped the 43-year-old driver of the No. 10 FreedomRoads Ford Fusion move into 12th place in this season’s Busch Series point standings.

“We’ve gotten stronger and stronger. I think the race at Milwaukee was the turning point for us this season. But we know we’re going to have more bad days than good ones. It’s the bad days where you are tested as a team. At this point in the season, people start to lose confidence, and have to evaluate, regroup and work at getting stronger as a team.”

The Brownsburg, Ind., native hopes to continue the season’s success at the 25th annual Kroger 200 at O’Reilly Raceway Park (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park) this Saturday.

“I love the track [ORP],” Andretti admitted. “It was where I ran in my first outdoor midget race, and finished second to [Ken] Schraeder. I think the world of Ron Anderson [ORP general manager]. My wife, who is not a big racing fan, gathers up some friends, goes to ORP and has a good time. It’s definitely a ‘Saturday night’ kind of race track.”

One of Andretti’s teammates at PPC racing is Kenny Wallace, who has definitely made an impression on Andretti, as a person and a driver.

“It’s never a boring day around Kenny. (laughs) When things get rough, you need a Kenny Wallace around, who wants everyone to have a good time. We talk about different things, like the set-ups of cars. We have different styles of driving. And since we don’t have a Nextel Cup team to get info from, we’re experimenting, which is good for us.”

When it comes to an honest critique of his performance, Andretti said that his dad Aldo (who is Uncle Mario’s twin brother) “is my toughest critic, even when I do well.

“He’s also my best friend. When I was growing up, my dad and I spent all our time together, and became really good friends.”

Andretti is one of three Andrettis who are carrying on the family tradition in auto racing that spans five decades: his cousins Michael and Marco (Michael’s son) compete in the Indy Racing League.

“As talented as he is as a driver, Marco is that good of a person off the track,” Andretti pointed out. “My uncle Mario was (and is) a champion off the track and on, and Marco’s dad is pretty awesome too. Our birthdays are one day apart [calendar-wise], and Marco always calls me on my birthday! That really means a lot to me.”

When asked if he has any rituals he observes on race day, Andretti recalled some advice he received from a NASCAR legend. “Dale [Earnhardt] Sr. told me once to always walk out the same door at the drivers’ meeting that you walk in through.”


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