2004 IRL Preview: Andretti Green Racing Four is enough for Andretti Green Racing INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2004 -- Michael Andretti had so much success running a multi-car team in the IRL IndyCarÂ® Series in 2003, he decided to add a...
2004 IRL Preview: Andretti Green Racing
Four is enough for Andretti Green Racing
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2004 -- Michael Andretti had so much success running a multi-car team in the IRL IndyCar® Series in 2003, he decided to add a another car to the three teams Andretti Green Racing already fielded.
"It's going to definitely be a challenge, but we think having a fourth car out there is going to hopefully be an advantage," said Andretti, who co-owns the team with Kim Green and Kevin Savoree. "The challenge is going to be the organization, keeping it managed."
Andretti, who retired as an active racer following the Indianapolis 500 last May, will field cars this season for Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta, reigning Bombardier Rookie of the Year Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti, who drove three races for the Honda-powered team last season before season-ending back surgery.
Kanaan established himself as the unofficial team leader through his role as a contender for the IndyCar Series title in 2003. He claimed his first series victory at Phoenix and led the point standings for much of the season. The Brazilian hopes to pilot the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda Firestone back into the championship chase.
"I think we have a strong year ahead of us," Kanaan said. "The series is going to be very competitive. It's going to be as tough as last year. My goal is to try and win more races than I did last year and be as consistent as I was."
Franchitti, who finished a season-best fourth at Pikes Peak in June, returns to the seat of the No. 27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda/Firestone. He showed speed at the preseason Open Tests at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.
"It feels so good to be back," he said. "The Arca/Ex car has been very good at our tests this winter. We've got a little bit of work to do yet before the season-opening race, but we're certainly going in the right direction. All of our guys seem to be pretty quick. It's hard to really tell what everybody has until you're qualifying or in the race."
Wheldon claimed the Rookie of the Year award despite missing the first two races of the season. He thinks the continuity of racing with the Andretti Green team will help him develop into a championship contender. "It's going to be good from the fact that this is the first time I've been with the same team consecutive years," Wheldon said. "I think that's going to play into my hands a little bit and certainly help. I think it's going to be a tough season. There's going to be a ton of people that can compete strongly week in and week out. You'll see as many as 10 people that could possibly win any one of the particular races."
Herta, who joined the team as a substitute driver for Franchitti, scored a win in his third start at Kansas in July. He will drive the No. 7 Dallara/Honda/Firestone this season in a ride Andretti said he earned with his performance in 2003.
"We are all very enthusiastic and we have a lot of optimism for the advantages we see in a four-car team, especially with the testing restrictions from the IRL," Herta said. "We should be able to gather a lot of data. It will be interesting to see how we manage that and all of the logistics that go with running four cars. I do think that if anybody can handle it, the experience last year, they ran three and a half cars last year. It wasn't too much of a stretch for them to do this."
CAPSULE LOOK AT ANDRETTI GREEN RACING
Sponsors: 7-Eleven, Archipelago Exchange (ArcaEx), Klein Tools, Jim Beam
Car numbers: 7 (Bryan Herta), 11 (Tony Kanaan), 26 (Dan Wheldon), 27 (Dario Franchitti)
Owners: Michael Andretti, Kim Green, Kevin Savoree
General manager: Kyle Moyer
Team managers: Tony Cotman (Franchitti, Kanaan, Wheldon), George Klotz (Herta)
Crew chief s/chief mechanics: Dave Popielarz (Franchitti), Jeff Grahn (Herta), Jeff Simon (Kanaan), John Cummiskey (Wheldon)
Engineers: Allen McDonald (Franchitti), Martin Pare (Herta), Eric Cowdin (Kanaan), Eddie Jones (Wheldon)
Michael Andretti on expanding AGR to four cars: "It's going to definitely be a challenge, but we think having a fourth car out there is going to hopefully be an advantage. The challenge is going to be the organization, keeping it managed. I think we have the best people in the business in those positions, and I think that's what really convinced us that we feel that we can do it because we feel like our management is second to none. We are under no illusions that this is going to be easy, but we feel if we can pull it off, it's going to be a huge advantage for the team."
Tony Kanaan: "I think we have a strong year ahead of us. The series is going to be very competitive. It's going to be as tough as last year. My goal is to try and win more races than I did last year and be as consistent as I was. I can't wait to get started."
Dario Franchitti: "It feels so good to be back. The ArcaEx car has been very good at our tests this winter. We've got a little bit of work to do yet before the race, but we're certainly going in the right direction. All of our guys seem to be pretty quick. It's hard to really tell what everybody has until you're qualifying or in the race. But I think we're pretty happy with where we're at. It just shows the kind of preparation that the Andretti Green put in at the end of last season and also through the winter."
Dan Wheldon: "The tests at Homestead and Phoenix have gone really well. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew has done a great job and I've been fast in every session. We have been improving with every run. Andretti Green Racing has done a great job in producing four very competitive cars that are very equal."
Bryan Herta: "I'm not surprised everything has come together so well, because the team was blended. I was expecting to be strong because some of the experienced guys moved over to our car and we brought in some new guys to make a good mix of people."
The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on Feb. 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network.