IRL: CHAMPCAR/CART: Andretti to return to Indy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2001 -- After a couple of false starts during the past few weeks Michael Andretti and his car owner Barry Green finally were able to hold a press conference today announcing their filing of a formal entry to run the...

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2001 -- After a couple of false starts during the past few weeks Michael Andretti and his car owner Barry Green finally were able to hold a press conference today announcing their filing of a formal entry to run the 2001 Indianapolis 500.

Principal sponsors for this effort will be Motorola and Archipelago, the same sponsors for Team Green in the CART series.

Team Green filed an entry March 27 for Andretti, who will attempt to make his 12th Indianapolis 500 start this year. Andretti joined Team Green this year after a long tenure with Newman-Haas.

Andretti, from Nazareth, Pa., will drive the #39 Motorola/Archipelago/Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, with an identical backup car entered. Simon Morley is the chief mechanic, with John Barnes as team manager and Steve Newey serving as engineer.

"I'm very happy to be here," Andretti said. " It's been a long time. First, I've got to thank (team owner) Barry (Green). When we signed the contract, one of the things that I really wanted was to drive at Indianapolis, and he said he would do all that he could. And he did." Tony George applauded Andretti and Green for having the persistence to (persuade the sponsors partners to join in and} come to Indianapolis in a separate but parallel activity with their CART participation.

Barnes also is the co-owner and team manager of Panther Racing, which fields the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/ Oldsmobile/Firestone in the entire Indy Racing Northern Light Series for points leader Sam Hornish Jr.

By the time I had all of the elements of this program in place, it was late," Green said. "So I had to lean on my good friend John Barnes and Panther Racing to help make this happen. The combination of my guys and Panther Racing will prepare this car at Panther's shop."

Said Andretti: "We tested the car the last two days at Homestead, and it went really well. The two teams joining forces will work really well. I'm really tickled to death to be back. I think we have a really good shot at doing well here, maybe my best shot ever."

The 85th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 27. Entries must be postmarked by April 11. All drivers will compete for one of the 33 starting spots in the world's most prestigious auto race.

Andretti has six top-10 finishes in 11 Indianapolis starts, with a best of second in 1991. He has led in five races for a total of 382 laps, the highest total of any non-winner in the history of the race.

Team Green has already tested the two Dallara/Aurora IRL cars at Homestead. "There is a difference in the CART & IRL platforms," said Andretti. "But we ironed out the bugs on Sunday, making little changes and the car felt very good on Monday. We will be testing here at Indy over Easter as well."

Andretti stated that coming to Indy was a big priority. "The turning point was probably when I was unable to secure Ford's permission to run Indy last year. I began to feel that maybe I would not ever get back here. I watched Juan Carlo Montoya's performance last year and said to myself, 'I should be there to keep him honest.'" After he became a free agent and signed with Barry Green -- "I pushed Barry hard."

"Back in 1995 I said some things wrong. I had my doubts about the IRL but more recently, after talking with Northern Light and others I liked the direction the IRL was going and changed my view about it." "There is going to be two leagues in open wheel racing and I'm anxious to get back to the familiar faces I see here at Indy," said the veteran with eleven Indy 500's under his belt.

Both Andretti and Green confirmed that the Indy 500 program will not affect their CART programs. They will not be using too many people from their CART program. Green and John Barnes will set the crew for the Indy 500 effort.

He said his father Mario was very excited and interested in returning to Indy in May. Michael also pointed out that they knew very well that that had some good IRL regulars to beat and not just the Penskes and the Ganassi's.

The presence of Michael and de Ferran and Castroneves and Team Ganassi with their two rookies is a good sign that things are beginning to stabilize in open wheel racing. Tony George has always said that anyone is free to enter at Indy. Now his vision is becoming even more clear.

-Len Ashburn

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Barry Green , Tony George , John Barnes , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing