ARCHDALE, North Carolina – Veteran racer John Andretti has competed in both CART and IRL events throughout his career. His career first started in the series formerly known as CART, now Champ Car, before moving to NASCAR. Andretti returned to open wheel last season to compete in the Indianapolis 500, an event sanctioned by the Indy Racing League. Andretti comments on the recent speculation of the unification of the two open wheel series.
John Andretti, former CART winner, NASCAR Sprint Cup winner and Indianapolis 500 winner:
What do you know or have heard about the unification of open wheel racing?
“I’ve talked to a few people that are somewhat in the know, or really in the know. I don’t even know if it’s been announced yet, but the idea and the feeling is that if it hasn’t been, it’s forthcoming. I think everything is really, really close. It will basically be IRL cars. It will be the IRL Series, but it will include some of the venues of Champ car, so some of the teams will obviously switch over. I assume some will dissolve. I think the process is short, though, because they have a Homestead test coming up and they’ve got racing to get started. There are cars available. I think there’s been so much to take into account, but it’s no longer November, December or January. We’re right on the heel s of the first race.”
Will this be a good step for open wheel racing?
“Right now, it’s no different than if NASCAR had a competing series at the highest level. You sit there and talk about if there should be an east and a west series, and set it up like the conferences. Racing is different than football. You want to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, all of them go head to head every week. You don’t want to see them once a year or at the end of the season. That’s the difference. We can do that because we have forty-three competitors, forty-three teams every weekend. Then we even have a race to get into that forty-three, so from that standpoint, that’s probably the best comparison. That’s what will happen – you’ll be bringing people in that fans recognize from both series as great drivers and solid organization team-wise. Yeah, I think it will make everything stronger.”
What are your feelings if it happens?
“I thought that years ago when CART was being sold off that the judge made the best decision he could, but I think if you take all of the circumstances into account, this could have been resolved then. Tony (George) could have played hardball in my opinion and he didn’t. He’s always played fair. This could have happened a long time ago, but it’s better to happen now than to keep whittling on. As time passed, that was everyone’s excuse. I think the IRL has great racing. It’s exciting. Some of those oval races like Texas are just unbelievable. I think the series is now going to have a lot of road racing again, some street racing; it’s going to have a lot of diversity. It’s going to look like back when Mario, Michael and myself raced and have that same sort of feel which I think is very positive.”