Andretti, Indy 500 reunite

Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2001

INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Andretti will return to the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 1995, the year before formation of the Indy Racing League spawned a boycott of the event by most of the top teams and drivers in open-wheel racing.

Andretti, the 1991 CART champion and son of 1969 Indy winner Mario Andretti, will drive for the new Motorola Racing team formed by Barry Green, who also owns the Team Green cars driven in CART by Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti.

The race is one Andretti has not won.

Andretti was fourth in the CART season-opener in Mexico and confirmed two weeks ago that Green was trying to help him put together a deal to drive in the rival IRL's premier event. The official word came Tuesday at a news conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

''When we singed the contract, Barry knew one of the things I wanted was to drive at Indianapolis, and he put together a great effort -- a winning effort, I think,'' Andretti said.

He tested the car, a Dallara, last weekend in Homestead, Fla.

''The (IRL) cars are quite different. The weight and horsepower are different. It took a bit to get used to that,'' he said. ''But we made the car feel pretty good. And it felt really comfortable.''

Andretti said his feeling about the IRL has changed since the league was founded five years ago.

''I talked to a lot of people and started to understand what the IRL is about, and I like the direction they're going,'' he said. ''There's always going to be two series. We have to accept that.

''I definitely said some things that were probably wrong at the beginning, but that was more from emotion because I wasn't going to be at the Indianapolis 500.''

The CART boycott began to crumble last year, when Ganassi Racing returned to Indy and won with driver Juan Montoya. Ganassi and Penske Racing, whose drivers have won a record 10 Indy 500s, already have said they will enter the race this year.

Al Unser Jr., a two-time Indy winner and former driver for Penske, joined the IRL last year with Galles Racing.

Ganassi last week entered four cars for rookies Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian, who last season finished 1-2 in the Formula 3000 series. Montoya left Ganassi to drive this season in Formula One.

Michael Andretti, whose best finish in 11 previous starts at Indianapolis was second to Rick Mears in 1991, has won a record 40 CART races. He also has led more laps at Indianapolis than any driver who has never won the world's richest auto race.

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