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Memo: Andretti Taking Stock?

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 1 2010

Michael Andretti says no immediate plans to test NASCAR waters, but...(Photo courtesy of the Indy Racing League)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Let’s see what’s in the Morning Memo today:

The headlong, frontal assault of stock car racing by open wheelers seems to have ebbed this season. Danica Patrick aside, just a few bored stragglers have dipped their toes in NASCAR waters in recent months.

It could be because of lack of immediate success by such pioneering open-wheeling souls as Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr. and Scott Speed. Or it could be that drivers think the future of stock car racing is as tenuous as the future of every other sport in this country and that includes the NFL.

Whatever. The land bridge between road racing drivers and oval sport has disappeared.

However, that does not mean that interest in cross pollination has gone completely cold. There are open wheelers out there who are toying with defection. And if not defection, at least splitting their loyalties.

And it appears that there is at least one team owner doing the same.

During a teleconference on Wednesday to announce his decision to field a car for NASCAR-team owner Richard Petty and driver John Andretti for this year’s IndyCar race at Kansas Speedway and then the Indianapolis 500, Indy Racing League team-owner Michael Andretti was asked if he had any interest in stock cars.

He was asked, specifically, if he might do what Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske have already done: Put together and operate a NASCAR operation while also maintaining his open wheel operation.

Andretti, the son of a driver who won both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, did not say no.

“Never say never,” he said. “You know, I think there’s always a possibility of that in the future. You know, we just have to wait and see.”

The guess here is that Michael Andretti could get good in a hurry in NASCAR. In the seven seasons his team has competed in the IndyCar Series, it has produced 34 race victories and three series championships.

Andretti has been superb at finding good people and putting them to work in the right jobs. He has been masterful at attracting and keeping sponsors.

This year, Andretti is going it alone as an IRL owner as he and former co-owner Kim Green have separated. Andretti said this week that because of that, his hands are full, and his focus narrowed strictly on the IRL.

But down the road…

“Right now I’ve just taken over the team at the end of last year,” Andretti said, “so I haven’t – it’s going to take us a little time to get things going here the way we like it. But I think we’re in the sport, in auto racing, and we’re a racing team, and we always look at opportunities, and if an opportunity comes up to do NASCAR, we may jump on it.”

Just after he said that, a voice of reason could be heard in the background. It was a person very familiar with the highs and lows of NASCAR team ownership – Petty.

“You can buy mine,” The King said.

Memo to self: Wonder where Marco Andretti will be driving in 2012.

Gossaged: Behind the scenes, the NASCAR media corps is blowing gaskets right and left this week.

It seems Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage had phony press releases sent out which said he had offered a Dallas/Fort Worth disc jockey a large sum of money if the jock would change his name to Texas Motor Speedway.com.

It was an April Fools Day gag but some media outlets picked it up and ran. And then, they stewed.

One reporter Twittered that it would be a long time before he published a TMS news release again.

The sad part is that knowing Gossage, I’m pretty sure that he knew that he would squeeze great publicity out of the hoax and he has. Sadder part, many in the media (guilty here), run without checking validity, everything sent to them.

Memo to self:  Sit on that press release I got this week that says that Auto Club Speedway has sold out its fall race.

Final thought: The guess here is that nobody but nobody is going to leave prior to Victory Lane ceremonies if Kyle Busch wins another guitar trophy in either the Camping World Trucks or Nationwide races at Nashville this weekend.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 1 2010
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