Andretti close to driver, engine announcements

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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.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).