FONTANA, Calif. (October 27, 2000) --- After 10 years with Newman/Haas Racing, Michael Andretti, will be making his 173rd and final appearance with the team in this weekend's CART FedEx Championship Series season finale, the Marlboro 500, at ...
FONTANA, Calif. (October 27, 2000) --- After 10 years with Newman/Haas Racing, Michael Andretti, will be making his 173rd and final appearance with the team in this weekend's CART FedEx Championship Series season finale, the Marlboro 500, at California Speedway. CART's winningest active driver with 40 victories will be 100 percent focused on winning the race as well as the $1 million payday while in the racecar but he knows that it will be an emotional and monumental day on Sunday.
"I really want to make my last race with the team something special by winning it," said Andretti, driver of the No. 6 Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford-Lola. "I can't think of a better way for us to part ways than to do it on a winning note. We have won a lot of races over the years and it would be great to have our last race together end with a victory. It will definitely be in the back of all of our minds. It will be an emotional day for sure."
Parting on a winning note is a distinct possibility for Andretti who has led all three events held at the California Speedway until equipment failure took him out of two events while leading (1997, 1999) and he crashed while challenging for the win from second place late in other one (1998).
"You've obviously got to finish a 500-mile race first to win it," said Andretti who has only two 500-mile victories at the Marlboro 500 at Michigan International Speedway (1987, 1989) as well as is the unfortunate holder of the record for having led the most laps during the Indy 500 WITHOUT a victory. "We've led a lot of laps at California Speedway but not the lap that we wanted to lead which is the 250th and that's our goal this weekend. Our reliability should be pretty good. We finished the 500-mile race at Michigan this year, which is pretty hard to do, so we have high hopes for Ford this weekend."
Andretti has not only competed in 172 previous races for the team, but he was also a permanent fixture around the team pits from Newman/Haas Racing's first season in 1983 when his father Mario Andretti was the first driver for the team until his son Michael joined the team in it's seventh season.
"We (Andretti's) have been here so many years," said Michael. "An Andretti has been with the team since Day 1 and I have a lot of great friends here that I am going to miss. I've had a great relationship with Kmart and Texaco over the years and they have been so great to work with that it's more like a family at Newman/Haas Racing than anything. It's a great team and we've had some great times together."
While at the team, Andretti has only had three teammates in the 10 years. When he joined the team in 1989, history was made as the first father-son team in Championship or Indy car racing. After a two-year hiatus where he raced in Formula One ('93) and at Ganassi Racing ('94), Michael returned to the team the season after his father retired and was partnered with Paul Tracy. For the past five years though, Andretti and Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi formed Racing's Dream Team with their famous surnames.
"Michael and I have had a good working relationship over the years," said Fittipaldi. "Michael decided to go his own way and I wish him all the best in his future races and I hope we can kick many butts here at the Newman/Haas camp next year and especially his."
While at the team, Andretti scored 31 of his 40 victories, 26 of his 32 pole positions and led 5164 of his 6402 laps but his fondest memory is of the 1991 season where he won eight races in route to his first and only CART Championship.
"My best memory would probably have to be winning the 1991 CART Championship," said Andretti, 38. "It was such a dream season. Everything seemed to go right for us and it was such a team effort. That is how I want to remember my time at Newman/Haas. Nothing has changed from the standpoint that Sunday will be a team effort as well. I want to win this race for the entire team and go out on a winning note. For an Andretti to bring the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline car into Winner's Circle in our last race together and collect $1 million for the guys would be a perfect tribute to the team and be the best going-away present I could think of."
When the green flag falls for the Marlboro 500 on Sunday, October 29 at 11:30 AM PT, Andretti and his Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline crew will be putting a decade of experience together behind their effort to get into Winner's Circle one last time together. While his peers will be driving a conservative race in an effort to win the Championship or end their season strong, Andretti and company will be putting 10 years of knowledge gained together into their effort to make the 173rd start for Andretti at Newman/Haas Racing feel like $1 million bucks. -NHR-