Michael Andretti hopes to eventually top Roger Penske in Indy 500 wins

Photo: Michael L. Levitt
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Quick: What IndyCar owner has earned the most Indianapolis 500 wins since 2005?

If you said Roger Penske – and hard as it may seem to believe, given his teams have won the 500 a record 16 times – you’d be wrong.

Michael Andretti was in Detroit on Wednesday to pick up his fifth “Baby Borg Trophy” since 2005 – the highly-coveted miniature version of the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy presented every year to the race winner and team owner of the 500.

Andretti’s 500 winners have been Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016) and Takuma Sato (2017). That’s five winners in the last 13 years of the 500.

Team Penske, meanwhile, has won the 500 just once in the last three years (2015, Juan Pablo Montoya) and three times since 2005 (2006, Sam Hornish Jr., and 2009, Helio Castroneves).

While Penske still outweighs Andretti 16-5 as the winningest modern-day owners in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing (Lou Moore won 5 Indy 500s as an owner from 1938 to 1949), Andretti wants Penske to hear his footsteps coming – and hopes to overtake him one day as the winningest team owner in Indy 500 history.

“That’s my goal,” Andretti told NBC Sports in an exclusive interview. “I keep telling Roger I want to do that. We’re a third of the way there.”

Andretti has developed his organization, Andretti Autosport, borrowing several pages from the playbook that Penske used to build Team Penske over the last 52 years.

“He’s always our benchmark,” Andretti said of Penske. “Roger, anywhere he goes, he’s going to set the benchmark. And if you can beat him, you’re beating the best of the field.

“We’ve been able to do that the last few years at Indy. Indy is very special to him and to be able to beat him at that place is a big accomplishment. Yeah, my goal is, before they bury me, is to have more Borgs than Roger.”

“Yeah, my goal is, before they bury me, is to have more Borgs than Roger.”

Penske turns 81 on February 20. Andretti turned 55 last October 5.

“(The Indy 500 is) the most special thing we do,” Andretti said. “This is a moment we all want, to be able to win the Indy 500. That’s what we’re all doing, that’s our Super Bowl.

“And now, to be able to say we’ve won it five times is amazing, and that we’re now second to only Roger Penske in wins.

“When you look at coming up on 102 years of history, to be part of that, that’s what it’s all about. We’re just very proud as a team, we like it, we love the feeling and we want to keep doing this. Our goal is to do it again this year.”

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds