Andretti close to driver, engine announcements

Leave a comment

Expect Wednesday’s announcement of the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at the Milwaukee Mile the first of several upcoming for Michael Andretti, the Andretti Autosport team, and the Andretti Sports Marketing arm, in 2014.

The team locked up 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay to a contract extension prior to the last race of last season. And Marco Andretti, obviously, also isn’t going anywhere.

As for the status of James Hinchcliffe, E.J. Viso and potentially Carlos Munoz, Michael Andretti said: “We’re hopefully announcing some things soon – there are some things I think we can do this weekend.”

Andretti is spending today in Dallas for sponsor meetings, then heading to Los Angeles for this weekend’s season finale in Fontana, Calif.

The other domino is whether Andretti Autosport will switch to Honda from Chevrolet for 2014, which appears likely at this point. I asked Michael whether Chip Ganassi’s move the other way caught him off guard.

“We knew something was going on, but I was surprised it was announced then (at Houston two weeks ago),” Andretti explained. “It’s put me in a bit of a weird position. But it’s been an interesting last couple weeks. We’re close to making a decision, hopefully announcing soon, and all options are on the table.”

Andretti is seeking further duties for his ASM promotional arm – a separate team and staff under the Andretti umbrella. The group lost Baltimore, another ASM-promoted race, for 2014. But whether it’s in Formula E, which the team has announced its plans to participate in, or with other possible new venues, Andretti is optimistic of finding something to fill the gap.

“We’re actively looking at other venues, and things to do,” Andretti said. “We were disappointed in the loss of Baltimore for sure. But it’s important for our staffing to be utilized. We’ll be announcing other things we’ll be doing, maybe not just IndyCar.”

It’s easy to forget because the team has been so snakebit with luck the second half of the season, that Andretti’s quartet of 2013 drivers have been quick and probably better as a collective unit than they were during the 2012 title-winning season.

But James Hinchcliffe’s podium two weeks ago in Houston Race 2 was the team’s first since Hunter-Reay was second in Iowa, back in June. Heading into the season finale, Hunter-Reay (second, 5.1 average), Marco Andretti (fourth, 9.0), and Hinchcliffe (fifth, 9.1) have three of the five best qualifying averages in the field, but not the results to match.

“It’s so weird,” Michael Andretti explained. “One of the highlights of the year for us was being on the front row at Pocono. From start of that race to now, it seems like the wheels came off.

“We’ve been competitive in every race, but you wouldn’t know it, because all our guys have bad luck,” he added. “That’s the way it goes. To win a championship, you have to have the breaks go your way. We could have won the championship this year with Marco or Ryan if they had the breaks Ryan did last year. People are saying we’re uncompetitive, but we’re not uncompetitive. We just wanna finish it off with a win to cap our bad luck.”

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.