Michael Andretti Has Eyes On Formula One

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 14 2013

Michael Andretti says that fielding a team for Formula One remains a possibility. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Already a championship team-owner and successful promoter in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Michael Andretti’s next order of business could be labeled – us against the world.

“(I’m) always looking at expanding our racing, and, yeah, I would love to one day be in Formula One in some way,” Andretti said during a teleconference promoting this weekend’s Milwaukee IndyFest at The Milwaukee Mile. “I think, you know, you have to look at the rules. The way they are right now, I don’t think the opportunity would be there. But there’s been a lot of talk about if they were to open it up to customer cars or things like that, that would make it more economical to make it happen for someone like us. So, we’re always watching it, and, yeah, there would be interest there if the right opportunity would come to us.”

A dedicated foray into F1’s “Flying Circus” would represent the most ambitious project yet for Andretti Autosport, home to reigning IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. In addition to fielding fulltime IndyCar Series Dallara/Chevrolets for Hunter-Reay, two-time 2013 race-winner James Hinchcliffe, E.J. Viso and son Marco, Andretti Sports Promotions is staging Saturday’s event at the historic 1-mile oval in West Allis, Wis.

Michael’s domestic open-wheel career featured 42 victories, 32 poles and the CART/PPG IndyCar World Series title in 1991. Individually, the Andretti Clan has a mixed history in F1. Michael, now 50, spent an aborted F1 season in 1993 with Team McLaren alongside three-time World Driving Champion Ayrton Senna. Mario Andretti, Michael’s father, was crowned America’s second world champion with Team Lotus in 1978.

Asked who among his current stable would be the best fit for F1, Andretti hedged and said, “I think all four would be capable of running up-front in Formula One. You know, if you’re going to go by sheer experience and what we’re showing in speed and everything for us as a team, Ryan, I think would be – plus Ryan’s on the call – so I have to pick him anyway. I think Ryan’s got the best shot.”

Hunter-Reay, meanwhile, singled-out his victory in the 2012 Milwaukee IndyFest and the bonus point he earned for leading the most laps as pivotal to his eventual championship run. The outcome moved Hunter-Reay from seventh in the standings following the annual Firestone 550 night race at Texas Motor Speedway into fourth.

“It was an important win for so many reasons,” said Hunter-Reay, who led Tony Kanaan of KV Racing Technology across the finish line by 5.1029-seconds. Hunter-Reay added successive victories at Iowa Speedway and the Streets of Toronto and another on the Streets of Baltimore in September. With a fourth-place finish in the finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Hunter-Reay clinched the title over Will Power of Team Penske by three points.

The top-five in the driver standings after eight races are separated by 65 points – frontrunner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske to Takuma Sato of A.J. Foyt Racing. Seven different drivers representing five different teams have won races this season, again putting emphasis on Saturday’s 250-lapper.

“(The season has) been amazing. Any weekend it could be any driver in this series,” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 1 DHL Dallara/Chevrolet and runnerup to Castroneves in the Firestone 550 in Fort Worth last Saturday night. “I would say 15 to 20 drivers any weekend could be there, which is a great thing. You go into every race thinking you can win it. There’s not a whole lot or any other series out there that’s like that. It’s great to see all the change-ups, but I’d like to make a move.”

Hunter-Reay actually is ahead of last year’s pace – in third place, 27 points behind Castroneves and two behind Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti. Indianapolis 500 winner Kanaan, who moved into fourth in the standings with third-place effort at TMS, is a two-time winner at Milwaukee and the 2012 runnerup.

The Milwaukee IndyFest will be televised live at 4 p.m. (EDT) by the NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211 and www.indycar.com. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Milwaukee 100 at 2 p.m. (EDT), also on Saturday. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m.

Ryan Briscoe will return to Panther Racing’s No. 4 National Guard Dallara/Chevrolet at The Milwaukee Mile. Briscoe made both starts with Panther during the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, and also started in the Indianapolis 500 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing last month.

“We’re excited to have Ryan back this weekend,” said John Barnes, Panther managing partner. “We’re working on getting him signed for several other races this season, so hopefully we’ll have that finalized in the short-term future.” Briscoe has seven career IndyCar Series wins and 13 poles in 107 starts.

Briscoe will leave the team immediately following Saturday’s race to continue preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which will take the green flag in France on Saturday, June 22. Oriol Servia, who made his Panther Racing debut last weekend in Texas and finished 19th (three laps down), is confirmed to compete in the No. 4 car at Iowa Speedway on June 23.

Bits from The Milwaukee Mile pits: Ana Beatriz, who competed in the first five IndyCar Series events of 2013 for Dale Coyne Racing, will drive the team’s No. 18 Dallara/Honda with support from longtime sponsor Ipiranga. Beatriz will be making her second start at Milwaukee, where she qualified 11th and finished 17th in 2011. … After leading 132 of 228 laps in his runaway win at TMS, Helio Castroneves now has led 4,933 laps during his career _ most of any active IndyCar Series driver. The win at TMS was the 28th of Castroneves’ career, placing the Brazilian one victory behind mentor and Team Penske advisor Rick Mears. … Since 1993, three drivers have scored their first win on The Milwaukee Mile _ Ryan Briscoe (2008), Michel Jourdain Jr. (2003) and the late Greg Moore (1997).

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 14 2013
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