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Thursday, December 15, 2016

John Andretti #37 Kmart / Little Caesars Ford

    Hello again racing fans, and welcome back to the NASCAR Racing Champions diecast blog!~ I'm getting my Christmas on today, with a special post for a guy named Walt~ I know nothing about him, other than his first name, but Walt had commented several months back asking me to do a post on his favorite driver, John Andretti, and his #37 Kmart/Little Caesars Ford~ It's been quite some time since his request, so I hope he's still a follower of the blog~

    John Andretti's first season with the Kranefuss/Haas team came in 1995, after he had been let go by Petty Enterprises following the end of the 1994 season~ The team was owned by Michael Kranefuss, the former head of the Ford Motor Company's International Motorsports division, and current NASCAR co-owner, Gene Haas~ With that out of the way, I'd like to wish Walt a very Merry Christmas, and I hope you enjoy this post~

                                                             John Andretti hero card~
John Andretti #37 Kmart Little Caesars Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1995 1996 Gene Haas Michael Kranefuss

    John's first race with the team came in the 1995 Daytona 500, and he didn't fare so well, with a 27th place effort~ However, he turned the corner the following week in the Goodwrench 500 @ Rockingham, with a 7th place qualifying spot, and a 13th place finishing position~ He followed this up with a 10th place finish in the Pontiac Excitement 400 @ Richmond~ The series next ran @ Atlanta, for the Purolator 500, where Andretti struggled a little bit, finishing in 20th place, 5 laps off the pace of race winner, Jeff Gordon~

    Andretti qualified 15th for the TranSouth Financial 400 @ Darlington, and ran good all day long, finishing the race with another 10th place showing~ He had a good qualifying session for the Food City 500 @ Bristol, with an 8th place effort, but finished the race 8 laps down, in 19th spot~ Moving on the following week to the First Union 400 @ North Wilkesboro, John qualified poorly, with a 34th place showing, but worked his way up to 17th by the drop of the checkered flag~

    The first road course race of the season was the Save Mart Supermarkets 300 @ Sears Point, and I remember thinking that this was the race I felt Andretti was really going to shine in... but he only qualified in 25th, and I was a little shocked~ He ended up finishing 11th, but was never a factor in the race, and I'm guessing the car just wasn't up to par for the course~ I was also pulling for Wally Dallenbach Jr. during that race, and he ended up finishing in 39th, with suspension problems~

    John qualified 36th for the Coca-Cola 600, but was able to improve the car somewhat during pit stops in the 600 mile marathon, and finished in 17th place~ The Miller Genuine Draft 500 @ Dover was next up on the schedule, and it ended up being, and still is to this day, one of my top 10 favorite races of all time~ Andretti qualified 4th for the event, but got loose on lap 2, causing Ricky Craven to make contact with him, which ended up causing a 20 car accident~

    Andretti was out of the race following the accident, and finished in 39th, followed by Dale Jarrett, Elton Sawyer, and Bobby Hillin Jr., who were also knocked out of competition following the lap 2 accident~ Kyle Petty dominated the day in the #42 Coors Light Pontiac, leading 271 laps, on the way to his 8th, and final win of his career~ Ted Musgrave, whom I was also pulling for to win, finished 3rd, and Hut Stricklin had an impressive run in the #26 Quaker State Ford, finishing with a 4th place showing~

                                                         Custom John Andretti hero card~
John Andretti #37 Kmart Little Caesars Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1995 1996 Gene Haas Michael Kranefuss

    After starting 21st in the Miller Genuine Draft 400 @ Michigan, Andretti picked up the first top 5 of his career, as well as the first for the Kranefuss/Hass team, with a 4th place showing~ He then had a steak of 4 races without a top 30 finish, before finishing 12th in the Brickyard 400~ In the Bud at the Glen, Andretti didn't have the best of qualifying efforts, with a 17th place run, but was able to battle his way up to a 7th place finish~

    John qualified 4th in the GM Goodwrench Dealer 400 @ Michigan, but suffered an engine failure on lap 73, which resulted in a 37th place finish~ He picked up his first of 4 career poles in the Mountain Dew Southern 500, and while he did lead 41 laps of the race, his car just wasn't there when he needed it the most, and he fell back to finish in 12th position~

    Following a 31st place qualifying effort for the Miller Genuine Draft 400 @ Richmond, Andretti was able to claw his way up to finish in 7th place, in what turned out to be the final top 10 of his 1995 campaign~ He qualified 9th for the MBNA 500 @ Dover, but was involved in a crash on lap 39, which ended his day with a 39th place finish~ He finished out the season with 1 pole, 1 top 5, and 5 top 10's, having led 41 laps, and finishing 18th in the final points standings~

                                                      Andretti hero card with white car~
John Andretti #37 Kmart Little Caesars Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1995 1996 Gene Haas Michael Kranefuss

    Andretti and the team had high hopes for the 1996 season, especially after qualifying 6th in the season opening Daytona 500~ The car was super strong during the race, and Andretti led 23 laps of the race, but he was involved in an accident with Michael Waltrip~ John over corrected, clipping Waltrip's car, and sending him head on into the wall, in what was a horrendous crash~ He only suffered minor cuts and bruises, though the car was toast, and he finished in 38th place~

    The following week in the Goodwrench Service 400 @ Rockingham, he again qualified well, with a 7th place effort, but his engine gave up on lap 159, resulting in another 38th place finish~ In the Pontiac Excitement 400 @ Richmond, he qualified 38th, and battled his way up to a 12th place finish~ He qualified 7th in the Purolator 500 @ Atlanta, but the car faded away as the race went on, and he finished in 21st, 8 laps down to race winner, Dale Earnhardt~

    John failed to make the field for the Food City 500 @ Bristol, and I have a feeling this may have got under the skin of team owner, Michael Kranefuss~ Andretti then failed to crack the top 30 in the next 3 races~ In the Winston Select 500 @ Talladega, he qualified 34th, but was able to guide his way up through the field, to a 9th place finish~

                                                      John Andretti's car @ Talladega~
John Andretti #37 Kmart Little Caesars Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1995 1996 Gene Haas Michael Kranefuss

    Andretti again qualified poorly for the Save Mart Supermarkets 300 @ Sears Point, starting 25th, but was able to move up to 11th by the end of the race~ After qualifying 3rd for the Coca-Cola 600 @ Charlotte, the car wasn't able to hold up during race conditions, and the team had to settle for a 27th place finish~

    John qualified 25th at Dover, for the Miller 500, but worked his way to the lead, where he led for 3 laps, before his engine blew within the last 100 laps of the race, resulting in a 33rd place finish~ After qualifying 19th for the DieHard 500 @ Talladega, Andretti was able to get to the lead, where he stayed for 4 laps~ However, he was involved in a crash on lap 102, that collected 11 other drivers, taking him out of the race, with a 39th place finishing position~

   In what turned out to be his final race with the team, Andretti qualified 15th for the Mountain Dew Southern 500 @ Darlington, and held on for an impressive 5th place finish~ Following this race, team owner Michael Kranefuss basically traded Andretti to Cale Yarborough, in exchange for the virtually unknown at the time, Jeremy Mayfield~ Andretti had his final top 5 of the season in the Hanes 500 @ Martisville, driving the #98 RCA Ford to a 5th place finish~

                                                       The promo packaging on this car~
John Andretti #37 Kmart Little Caesars Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1995 1996 Gene Haas Michael Kranefuss

   As I was doing my research on this car, and gathering photos to use for the post, I realized that not many people care to remember John Andretti, and that made me sad~ It was pretty hard to find decent pictures of him in this car, and I figured that'd be easy to find.. but it wasn't the case~ John was a unique drive, who could win in any series he chose to race in~ Heck, he won a race driving for Cale Yarborough... who else can say that?~

   As you can see in the photo above, this was a promo item, only sold at Kmart~ It is a limited edition of 50,000... and I never understood how 50,000 of something qualified it as "limited edition"~ Seems kind of pointless to me, but I'm sure it's a marketing thing to try and sell more of them~ The backwards K and the H beside the Kmart logo is the Kranefuss-Haas team logo~

                                                 John Andretti #37 Kmart / Little Caesars Ford~
John Andretti #37 Kmart Little Caesars Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1995 1996 Gene Haas Michael Kranefuss
                                                            Click pics to enlarge~
John Andretti #37 Kmart Little Caesars Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1995 1996 Gene Haas Michael Kranefuss

    While I was a fan of this car, and the driver.. I never understood what a car sponsored by Kmart and Little Caesars would be purple~ Neither of the companies had that color in their logo, so it made no sense to me~ I guess that could be why they eventually changed to the white paint scheme, which in my opinion was a much better looking machine~

    The purple just kind of clashes with everything too much~ I'm a fan of wild looking cars, but mismatched color patterns is where I sort of draw the line~ I'm giving this car a break though, because there aren't many purple cars in the sport, so I feel obliged to be a fanboy of this odd looking paint scheme~ With that being said, I'm still only giving this car a C+ on the Racing Champions quality scale~ It's of the newer body style that I'm not a fan of, it's weird and purple, and the card is hideous looking, as Andretti looks like he's sitting on the toilet trying to drop a load~

    I'd like to thank you all for viewing this post, and I hope that Walt gets to read it, and enjoys it as well~ If you have any suggestions for cars to post, feel free to leave a comment, and I'll get to it if I have the car~ Below are some clips from John's career, along with a bonus car~ Enjoy them, and please share this post on any social media sites you are a part of~ :)

                     **Bonus car** Diggity Dave #41 Domino's Avoid The Noid Chevrolet~
Diggity Dave #41 Domino's Pizza Avoid the Noid Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog custom

                                                              All of John's Cup wins~

                                                             Top 5 Andretti crashes~
                                           1994 Coca-Cola 600 - Andretti's marathon day~
                                         Andretti crashes his DEI car - 2003 Brickyard 400~



1 comment:

  1. I watched a few races from early 1995 and he actually started out in the white Thunderbirds and then they were painted purple sometime that summer. The two sponsers were side by side on the hood that year and changed to vertical (with Kmart being on top) in '96. I had that first poster from '96; it came as an insert in a program from Michigan International Speedway! Also, he test drive some Lincolns in either '95 or '96, but Ford shut that idea down pretty quickly.