Busch 'rookie' Andretti knows Martinsville well


MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- The field of drivers racing in the Goody's
250 NASCAR Busch race at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday includes
Nextel Cup veterans, past track winners and series rookies -- and
one driver that can claim to be all three.

John Andretti, a veteran of 10 Nextel Cup seasons, mostly as a
driver for Richard Petty Enterprises, won the Goody's Body Pain 500
Cup race in 1999 at Martinsville, but is considered a Busch Series
rookie this season driving for ppc Racing.

The ppc team, in fact, boasts two former Martinsville Speedway
winners in the series' first trip back to the track in 10 years.
Andretti's teammate, Kenny Wallace, has two Busch Series wins here,
including the last race run in the series on the .526-mile, paper
clip-shaped track in 1994.

Qualifying is Saturday and the race begins at 3:35 p.m. ET.

Andretti still gets a broad smile when talking about his
Martinsville victory.

That day produced one of his two wins in his 340 Nextel Cup
starts with the other victory coming at Daytona International
Speedway in July 1997. He won the Martinsville race after falling
behind one lap, passing leader Jeff Gordon to get back on the lead
lap, and then blowing by Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Gordon
and Jeff Burton in the closing laps. He only led the final four
laps of the race.

"I got a lot of Martinsville tickets in the mail from fans to
sign. I got even more than when I won at Daytona. A lot of people
seem to remember that day," Andretti said Friday. "Jeff [Burton]
and I are really good friends so I wish it could have been someone
else, but we raced each other really hard and it was great fun. To
get the grandfather clock that day was really cool. I would love to
take one home again."

Coming back to southwest Virginia makes him happy, too.

"I like Martinsville because you have to be smart about what
you do with the throttle and the brakes and it's more than having a
trick body. You have to work harder and you have to be disciplined
as a driver," he said.

Andretti said he didn't get a good feel in Friday's practice for
how he will do in qualifying but said, "I feel real good about our
race stuff." He was 21st fastest out of 40 cars that tested during
the final hour of the day.

Andretti also has had some bright spots in his first Busch
season. He's 12th in the points race, which leader Kevin Harvick
has turned into a runaway, but second in the rookie of the year
race, only five points behind Burney Lamar.

"I came to the Busch Series because I felt ppc was an
opportunity, and if it wasn't a team of this caliber, I wouldn't be
back," he said. "We have a road in front of us to cover, and we
are nipping at it piece by piece. Kenny Wallace and I are moving
ourselves forward. As the season goes on, we are getting better and