Andretti’s organization truly “gets it” with 2014 plans, expansions

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One of the partner representatives at Monday’s Andretti Autosport 2014 team reveal referred to the Andretti family as a brand, which is a good and accurate description. And just in the last five years, Michael Andretti’s own forging of his and his team’s stature has only enhanced the brand.

For a brief history lesson, the team was formerly known as Andretti Green Racing through 2009 but since the transition to its current iteration as Andretti Autosport in 2010, the team has, year-by-year, made methodical steps forward to emerge as one of the key players on the overall North American motorsports scene.

Of the three so-called “power teams” in IndyCar – Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport – only Andretti was committed enough to developing and nurturing future stars in all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system. And the results are already evident with his 2014 driver lineup: the only drivers who didn’t race for an Andretti ladder team are Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe, and both of them have extensive ladder histories anyway before they moved into IndyCar.

But Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz (Indy Lights, now IndyCar), Matthew Brabham (Pro Mazda, now Indy Lights), Zach Veach (Pro Mazda and USF2000, now Indy Lights), Shelby Blackstock and Garett Grist (USF2000, now Pro Mazda) have all raced with Andretti’s teams in the past before advancing with the team to their current seats.

It’s with that information that unfortunately the team’s USF2000 program is the casualty of its expanding horizons as an overall company. But something had to go given the team’s 2014 aspirations and commitments.

The Andretti organization – through its Andretti Autosport team and Andretti Sports Marketing arms – is truly well-positioned in other forms of motorsport to weather whatever economic storm could hit and the key foresight to be able to explore what could be “the next big thing” in motorsports.

Andretti Sports Marketing (based in Indianapolis, with satellite offices in Toronto, New York, & Ft. Lauderdale) promotes one IndyCar race, the Milwaukee IndyFest, which now, thanks to that team’s efforts has an overflow of corporate partners. The result is a tongue-twister – the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers – but it now has date (August) and sponsor stability that other races on the IndyCar calendar could crave.

To replace the Baltimore race that was dropped mainly due to a date clash, the ASM team has expanded into FIA Formula E, both as a team and now race promoter of its Miami event, and just Monday officially into Global Rallycross with VW.

Andretti, in his new joint roles as CEO, team principal and race strategist remains humble in public comments and thankful for the opportunities, even though he’s been the driving force for both organizations’ forward momentum.

“My whole career, just driving, to be able to do it and be halfway successful, and now to come out and have such a great group around me, it’s really exciting,” he said at Monday’s 2014 team launch. “I’ve been with the sport I love my whole life; I’m very lucky.”

Some of the other team members of note include J-F Thormann and John Lopes, along with a seemingly ever-expanding PR/marketing, sales and operations staff that keep the forward momentum moving.

Andretti’s organization has not branched into NASCAR, where with time, it could achieve another round of successful results as the Penske and Ganassi organizations have there. Ganassi’s team had a stellar 2010 season with sweeps of the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 with Jamie McMurray. Meanwhile over the last five years, Penske’s operation has won several dozens of races between Cup and Nationwide. Brad Keselowski secured the 2010 Nationwide and 2012 Sprint Cup championships, and Penske also secured the the owner’s championship in Nationwide in 2013.

Back to Andretti’s group, though, the organization has sought to be the best in every open-wheel discipline it enters. Since 2010, Andretti’s team has improved its IndyCar win total each year (5 in 2013, 4 in 2012, 3 in 2011, 2 in 2010). Overall, it has four IndyCar championships and two Indianapolis 500 victories. It has two Indy Lights titles (2008 with Raphael Matos, 2009 with JR Hildebrand). It has a crushing Pro Mazda title-winner in Brabham (2013); it had a USF2000 champion in Sage Karam (2010), who is one of the few ladder series drivers who didn’t advance fully up the ladder with the team.

Given that pedigree, it’s hard not to consider it a contender in FE, even though as a new series there’s no clue yet as to how the races will play out. It’s also hard to not consider it a contender in GRC.

And the organization’s status as a major mover-and-shaker in the business of racing, largely with race promotion but also in other areas and services, is not going unnoticed.

Even yesterday’s live stream of its 2014 team launch was another clear sign how much this organization “gets it.” One of the few sticking points most raise about IndyCar is how little of its content is live streamed. So here’s the Andretti group, that has brought in a new, forward-thinking, Austin-based social media and technology company called Cinsay and streams it on a new site called AndrettiTV.com, which is designed to provide fans more access. Ironically, there were the occasional technical glitches, but don’t let that detract from the purpose of what the organization set out to do with the stream.

In an era where racing sponsorship is so hard to find, Andretti has managed to find not one but two new major primary sponsors to replace GoDaddy and the Venezuelan backing brought by E.J. Viso last year. The Cinsay and United Fiber & Data cars look great, too.

It’s the combination of all these things that sees Andretti Autosport and Andretti Sports Marketing ridiculously well-positioned in a notoriously tough business. If you haven’t been paying attention, now would be a good time to start.