We wrote a couple weeks ago about Andretti Sports Marketing’s plans for promotion of the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, to be held April 10-12, 2015 at NOLA Motorsports Park.
This weekend, there will be a full-out blitz by the company as it hits the LSU-Alabama football game, Champions Square and NOLA Motorsports Park over the three days from Saturday (Nov. 8) through Monday (Nov. 10).
Starting on Saturday, from 4 to 6 p.m. CST, here’s what’s on the docket at Tiger Stadium:
Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana show car will be displayed for fan photo ops.
Two-Seater Indy car will be on-site and open to the public for rides, 11AM-5PM (these will be held outside Tiger Stadium; more information via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).
All proceeds will be given to charity.
Michael Andretti and Justin Wilson will be at the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana show car display from 4PM – 6PM and open to media opportunities.
Note that last bullet point. Although the Andretti release sent out listed Wilson as driver of Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 entry, Wilson has no confirmed plans for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season – and his presence at an Andretti Sports Marketing event, considering Andretti’s No. 27 car is open for 2015, is one of those things that makes you go “hmmmm.”
On Sunday, at Opening Act Bar in Champions Square (1500 Sugar Bowl Dr., New Orleans, LA 70112), Andretti and Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power will be on the field for pre-game activities at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, when the New Orleans Saints host the San Francisco 49ers, and open to media opportunities. Two-seater rides will take place from 9 a.m.-noon and 3-6 p.m. Rides are open to the public and all proceeds will be given to charity.
Power and Andretti will then shift to NOLA Motorsports Park on Monday for the launch of tickets going on sale, at the NOLA Motorsports Park karting complex. The ceremonial ribbon cutting will occur from 9:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. CT with two-seater rides taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
It all adds up to what could be a big showcase weekend for IndyCar and the GP of NOLA event itself, in front of a massive football audience.
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”