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Garett Grist steps up to Indy Lights with Team Pelfrey

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In the first formal announcement of what could be several changes before the next Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race at Road America, Garett Grist has announced a step up to Indy Lights from the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series.

The young Canadian ran the opening seven rounds in Pro Mazda, what was his third year in that series, with a best finish of second at his most recent round at Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis.

He’ll now move into Indy Lights with Team Pelfrey, in the team’s No. 3 BuyGapGuard.com Dallara IL-15 Mazda for the remaining road course races. Scott Hargrove, who had driven that car all races this year, will return for Iowa Speedway.

The full Team Pelfrey release is below:

Team Pelfrey Indy Lights announced today that Mazda Road to Indy veteran Garett Grist will pilot the No. 3 BuyGapGuard.com Team Pelfrey Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Mazda machine for the remaining road course races in 2016.

“I am very excited to be joining team Pelfrey for the rest of the 2016 Indy Lights season,” said Grist. “The team has proven they can win races and run up front. I’d like to thank Dale Pelfrey for the opportunity he has given me. It wouldn’t be possible without him and my other supporters, Lander Property Management and Mac Tools.”

The Grimsby, Ontario-native has been competing in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires for the past two and a half seasons, recording 5 wins and 30 top-10 finishes. The 21 year-old finished third in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered By Mazda in 2013, and repeated the feat during the 2015 Pro Mazda season.

“I have been watching Garett for quite some time now,” said Team Pelfrey Indy Lights Team Manager, Gary Neal. “I am very happy that we have been able to put together a program for Garett to join Team Pelfrey Indy Lights team for the final road course events this season to prepare him for a full program in 2017. Our expectations at the track are always to be in the mix for the win and we aim to deliver a competitive car for Garett in his first event at Road America.”

Grist’s first race with the team will come at the inaugural Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires. He is partnered with Mac Tools, Spyder Active, Lander Property Management, Sparco and Bell Helmets. He will be teaming up with Juan Piedrahita in a pair of trademark yellow Team Pelfrey Indy Lights cars.

“We know it won’t be easy coming in half way through the year. But we plan to work hard, and improve every time we are on track. I am looking forward to working with everyone on the team and learning from each of them,” said Grist.

Rounds 9 and 10 of the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season take place June 24-26 at the historic 4.048-mile, 14-turn Road America circuit. You can follow Garett on Instagram @GarettGrist and Team Pelfrey Indy Lights @TeamPelfrey on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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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.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

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.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

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.

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.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

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;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–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.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).