Photo: Michael L. Levitt

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

Leave a comment

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.”

MRTI: Toronto digest

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Last year’s visit to the streets of Toronto for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires proved to be a pivotal point in the championship chase that year.

Kyle Kaiser swept both races in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and doing so gave him firm control over the championship, and he all but clinched it ahead of the season finale at Watkins Glen – Kaiser needed to only start that event to wrap up the title.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Parker Thompson swept the weekend, Oliver Askew was caught up in a crash in Race 2. Combine that with a second place finish from 2017 title rival Rinus VeeKay – VeeKay also finished third in Race 1 – and it kept the championship within reach of VeeKay, who took it all the way to the finale at The Glen.

The 2018 visit north of the border will likely be remembered for a similar impact on the MRTI championships, both in Indy Lights and USF2000 and, maybe most significantly, in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

A look at big stories to emerge from a wild weekend on the streets of Toronto is below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia scored a much needed win in Race 2 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia’s championship hopes were teetering entering the weekend – he was 49 points out of the lead and had been vastly overshadowed by title combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta for most of the season. But, his Race 2 victory combined with a second place in Race 1 to close him to within 40 points of O’Ward for the championship lead. He’s still a bit of a long shot, but his chances look much brighter leaving Toronto than they did entering.
  • More significantly, Colton Herta’s title hopes may have taken an enormous hit. After crashing in Race 1 qualifying, just after grabbing the pole as well, Herta suffered a thumb fracture that he aggravated again after crashing during Race 1. It forced the team to recommend Herta essentially sit out Race 2 – he pulled off after running only a couple laps and finished sixth – and he dropped to 18 points behind O’Ward, who won Race 1 and finished second in Race 2. The margin is hardly a commanding one for O’Ward, but with the next stop at the ultra-physical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta’s injured hand could remain a factor in the coming races and allow O’Ward to widen the margin.
  • One can’t help but feel bad for Victor Franzoni. Coming off the high of winning his first Indy Lights Race at Road America, Franzoni’s season took a turn for the worse. He crashed in Race 1 and then pulled off in Race 2 in order to conserve finances and resources – Franzoni detailed afterward that the budget is tight for him this year and crash damage from Race 1 does him no good. It would be a genuine shame if Franzoni’s season was derailed by funding issues, as the likeable Brazilian has made great progress all year and has the potential to make it as a Verizon IndyCar Series driver. He just needs the backing to get there.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay now trails Parker Thompson by only seven points in the Pro Mazda championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • No Mazda Road to Indy Championship was shaken up as much as Pro Mazda. Parker Thompson entered the weekend with a sizeable lead of 46 points over Rinus VeeKay. He exits the weekend only seven points ahead after finishes of eighth in both races – he was involved in a crash in Race 1 and made an unscheduled pit stop after thinking he suffered suspension damage in Race 2. Meanwhile, VeeKay dominated the weekend, winning from the pole in both races. It all means that what was once looking like a possible runaway has been all but reset. And we might see a genuine duel between them all the way to the season finale at Portland International Raceway.
  • There are few words to describe the relief everyone felt in seeing Harrison Scott walk away unhurt after his frightening airborne crash in Race 1. This was the first major crash test in a race for the Tatuus PM-18, and it aced it. And big kudos should also be given to the AMR Safety Team, who were already tending to Scott barely a few seconds after his car had come to a rest. Scott did start Race 2, but pulled off with a mechanical problem…which seems minor in comparison to what could have happened in Race 1.
  • Oliver Askew had his best race of the year in Race 2, finishing second to VeeKay for his second podium of the season. It’s been a tough year for Askew and Cape Motorsports after winning last year’s USF2000 title, and getting a podium under their belt could be just what they needed heading into the season’s stretch run.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood continued his USF2000 dominance on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • After another weekend sweep, Kyle Kirkwood has one hand on the USF2000 championship. He leads Kaylen Frederick by a staggering 131 points – that’s over four road course races worth of points. He may well leave Mid-Ohio as the USF2000 champion. And even if he doesn’t, it would take something unheard of to keep the championship from his grasp.
  • Kaylen Frederick sits second, only three points up on Igor Fraga. Fraga had his best race since Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, when he finished second, and he nearly outdueled Kirkwood for the win in Race 2. Both he and Frederick have caught fire of late, and their battle for second is very evenly matched.
  • Don’t count out Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second in the championship either. The Swedish driver is seven points behind Frederick and scored his third podium of the year by finishing third in Race 2 at Toronto. Second is well within his reach.

The Mazda Road to Indy is off this weekend before heading to Mid-Ohio, where Indy Lights and USF2000 again have double headers, while Pro Mazda will enjoy a triple header.

Follow@KyleMLavigne