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My Brickyard Moment: Andy Petree, 1995

Note: This continues a series of letters from NASCAR's best as they recount their Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records wins and other big moments to happen at the Brickyard. Read other installments of "My Brickyard Moment" here.

Andy Petree was Dale Earnhardt’s crew chief at Richard Childress Racing (RCR) from 1993-95 in the NASCAR Cup Series. In that three-season span, Earnhardt won 15 Cup races and a pair of championships in the No. 3 Chevrolet. Stock car racing’s “Intimidator” finished second in the points standings to a very young Jeff Gordon in 1995. Petree was on the pit box for Earnhardt’s first two Brickyard 400 runs. Petree has worked as a NASCAR analyst for ESPN and FOX and is the vice president of competition for RCR. He offers some interesting background on Earnhardt’s victory in 1995, which was a season in the making.

 

Yeah, that 1995 race did start in ‘94. Dale Earnhardt really, really, really wanted to be the first NASCAR winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You know, it meant a lot to him. We went there and tested a couple times actually in ‘94. The test. I remember is we had two cars that they were testing, and we just weren’t very good.

 

Finally, I thought, ‘You know, I’ve got a short-track car that's sitting up in the truck.’ It was a new kind of short-track car, and it was a lot lighter. I said, ‘You know what, that thing might be what we need here.’ So I just unloaded it the last day.

 

We get it all ready at the test, and the first lap on the racetrack it was like a half a second faster than the other two cars. So we brought it back and put a big effort in it. If you remember back then, Hoosiers were the tire to beat. They had the faster tire on a regular basis during that tire war.

 

They sat on the pole with Rick Mast, and we were the fastest car with Goodyear tires on it. Earnhardt was so jacked up when that ’94 race started, and he knocked the wall down. He raced his heart out that day. We finished fifth, and Jeff Gordon won.

 

Not winning the inaugural really got all over him. That Gordon was the first winner, he did not like that. Nothing against Gordon, Earnhardt wanted to win that first Indy race. In 1995, we built a new car dedicated just for that race. That’s how bad he wanted to win.

 

We started 13th in the field, and let me tell you, there was a ton of green flag racing that day. There was only one yellow flag for four laps. That played to our advantage because we had Dale Earnhardt in our car. The pit crew, we did our part.

 

We got the lead on pit road on a green flag stop. We had a really, really good stop. We were racing Rusty Wallace. That was the one we were trying to beat, because he was leading the race.

 

I’m telling you, man, Earnhardt had to be flawless because our car was not quite as fast as Rusty’s. But, you know, once you got the track position it was just so hard for anybody to pass you in those cars back in those days.

 

 

So Earnhardt had to be flawless, and he was. He hit every mark, every lap, for those last 28 laps.

 

 

That was a long 28 laps. After we wore Rusty down and probably overheated his stuff trying to get by us, Dale Jarrett was on the move. He made a huge charge right there at the end of the race. When I saw Jarrett coming, I thought we were going get beat, but he finished third.

 

 

Rusty was on Earnhardt the whole time in the closing laps. He was right there the whole time. We never got any lead that you could breathe on. It was just every lap was just hold your breath.

 

It was a lot of pressure on the crew chief. Yes, a lot of pressure. Here you are the crew chief for the best driver in the sport, and you know, probably the most desired thing on his mind, as far as accomplishments, was winning that race.

 

The Daytona 500 was always there, and people bugged him crazy about that. But this was one he really wanted. I mean, Indy meant a lot to him. I don't really know why. I never really got in his head on it so much. You could just tell it when we showed up at the track. It was something special for him to race there.

 

Earnhardt was pretty funny after he won the Brickyard 400. I remember him saying to the media that he was “the first man” to win the race, which I thought was hysterical. I think even Gordon kind of got a kick out of that line.

 

Winning the 1995 Brickyard 400 was the biggest win in my racing career because I never won the Daytona 500. So, it was the biggest win of my career of any kind. I won twice as a car owner, and that first win for me at Talladega is real special, but that Brickyard has to rank right up there.

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