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Riding Shotgun with ESPN's Andy Petree

Andy Petree has done nearly everything in NASCAR. Driver, tire changer, crew chief, team owner and now ESPN analyst. He was a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup-winning crew chief for the late Dale Earnhardt.

As ESPN kicks off its NASCAR coverage this weekend with the Brickyard 400, Trading Paint caught up with Petree.

Trading Paint: How has the transition from track side to broadcasting booth gone?

Andy Petree: The transition was really in 2007 and 2008. It's becoming more comfortable. I am still growing in the role. The pressure side is way less.  There is a little pressure when the camera comes on. I get a little nervous. As far as the pressure to perform, I've lived with that for 25 years. In NASCAR, you are no better than your last race. I've never lost a race in the broadcast booth (laughs). I love the sport, so this a dream job.

TP: What is your favorite track on the circuit?

AP:  Daytona really is NASCAR. It defines us in a couple of ways. Just being in Daytona in February is nostalgic. And you can't forget about the beach course.

TP: You are visiting another historic track this weekend -- the Brickyard.

AP:  The first time we came there, it was so different. The track is so much different than anything else we've been to. The history is everywhere. We never looked at it as just an Indy car track,  it's a race track. For us to come there and race was a big big thing. Dale wasn't sentimental or nostalgic, but he really had a soft spot for that track. We won the second year, we crashed on second lap in the first race NASCAR ran there. It's a big race. I look forward to going up there every year.

TP: What's your take on the standings thus far?

AP: It's almost the same thing as last year. Jimmie Johnson is no really in championship form yet. But he doesn't need to be yet. Carl Edwards is really making the most of it. If I had to pick someone who could knock Jimmie off, it would be Carl. But Kevin Harvick learned something last year about learning how to race for points. He peaked early last year. But I am not going out there to predict that Jimmie Johnson will get beat again.

TP: Can anyone beat Jimmie?

AP:  I am going to use a stick and ball analogy. It's not that Jimmie has a better glove or better shoes than the others, he just does it better. Jimmie Johnson is that good. He's that good of a driver. And they've wrapped a good team around him. Chad Knaus does his job well. But it all starts with the driver. And what happens when you have a driver like that it attracts the best people in the business. They want to work with him.

TP: Who do you like this week?

AP: I think Tony Stewart is there. I saw what he did in New Hampshire. They turned the corner on some stuff. I like Tony Stewart at Indy and I like Kurt Busch.

TP: Will we ever see another driver who captivates the sport like Dale Sr. did?

AP: That just shows you and tells you how special he was. The sport really identified with him. I don't see anyone who can step up there and take his place. Dale Jr. is the most popular driver by far. But Dale Sr. was something special. It's not easy to srep up and fill those shoes.  It goes back to his roots, he came from humble beginnings. His Dad was a struggling race car driver. And it was the same thing with Dale. He was just beating around going from to tack to track. It's not that he identified with the blue collar people, he was blue collar. A lot of things about him got more refined as he got more popular. But he never abandoned that, right up until he died.

 

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