Andretti with his new ride
announced today they will make the jump from the NASCAR
Busch Series to the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series for five of the
remaining seven races in 2004, running the full schedule in
John Andretti will pilot the #14 Ford for ppc Racing, with
sponsorship from VB cigarettes and APlus at Sunoco. The team
hopes to make their debut in the UAW-GM Quality 500 at
Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.
“A lot of people have been working hard to put this program
together,” said Andretti, nephew of Indianapolis 500 legend
Mario Andretti. “It’s pretty exciting to have everything set
and ready to go.”
“This in the next step for ppc Racing,” team owner Greg
Pollex said. “It’s a big step but one we’re prepared, and
excited, to take. The backing of our sponsors and Ford Motor
Company allows us the level of support we need to be
competitive. Ford has given us everything we’ve asked in
this endeavor, and they support us fully.
Pollex says he knows from experience how fiercely
competitive Nextel Cup Racing can be.
“I don’t want anybody to think that I’ve underestimated the
task that we’re about to undertake,” Pollex said. “We are
going to go after this from day one. We know we’re going to
grow, we know we’re going to make mistakes, we know we’re
going to stumble occasionally, but it won’t be from lack of
ppc Racing has been involved in the NASCAR Busch Series for
the past 11 years, picking up 27 wins. The team has finished
in the top five in the Busch Series points for four
consecutive years, including the 2000 series championship.
The team currently fields a car in the Busch Series as well
as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Pollex said ppc Racing
will continue to field those teams through the 2005 season.
Andretti with his new ride
Andretti and the team took part in a two-day testing session
last week at Lowe’s, where the #14 Ford set the set time on
both days. With no provisionals available to them, the team
needs to make the race on speed in order to get in the
“We had a series of goals we wanted to accomplish and we
accomplished them,” Pollex said. “Nothing comes easy here
(at Lowe’s Motor Speedway) and we want to go after this thing
as prepared as we can.”
Andretti, a two-time winner in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series,
has been without a full-time ride since being released from
Petty Enterprises mid-way through the 2003 season, Since
then, he’s driven for several teams in one-race deals,
including Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
The choice of car number, #14, was no coincidence. The
number is forever linked with four-time Indy 500 winner A.J.
Foyt, who just happens to be Andretti’s godfather, giving
the number added significance for the team.
“I talked to Greg (Pollex) about the idea (of using the
#14), and he thought it was a great idea, so I called A.J.,”
Andretti said. “The first thing (Foyt) said ‘whatever I can
do to help you’, so that was important to me.”
Victory Brand LLC’s involvement with the team will mark the
first time a tobacco company has sponsored a team full time
since R.J. Reynolds withdrew its title sponsorship of the
series following the 2004 season. RJR sponsored NASCAR’s
premiere series through its Winston brand from 1971 to 2004.
Under the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco
sponsors are limited as to how they advertise their
products, including sports sponsorships.
Victory Brand CEO Steve Swick emphasized that his company
was working diligently to target adult smokers of legal age,
and would avoid marketing toward minors.
“We’re a very age-sensitive company,” Swick said. “Our
corporate policy expressly forbids marketing aimed at anyone
other than smokers of legal age. This is an area both
Victory Brand, LLC and ppc Racing have discussed in full,
and neither of us wants to sway from that.”
Pollex said the team also had to take into consideration
whether NASCAR might ban tobacco sponsorship altogether,
including the possibility NASCAR might “grandfather”
existing tobacco sponsorship already in place.
“There has been discussion about it, and we do have to
comply with the tobacco agreement, and we’re going to follow
it to the letter,” Pollex said. “Myself and Steve Swick and
John Andretti have all talked about how we will continue
this effort even if the rules or the laws change.
“There are going to be those who are very outspoken about
not smoking. We are in the business of advertising product
to those who make a conscious choice. It should be freedom
of choice. It is a consumer product for adults and you
should have the choice to smoke or not.”
The team will be using engines from Robert Yates Racing,
under an agreement that lasts through 2006. No details of
the sponsorship terms with VB or APlus were announced.
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