Andretti Aiming at Father’s Total
TORONTO (AP) _ Michael Andretti has some motivation to keep on driving into his 40s.
The 37-year-old second-generation driver, the leading winner in the 22-year history of CART, picked up his 40th career victory Sunday in the Toronto Molson Indy.
That took him out of a tie for career open-wheel wins with Al Unser Sr., and left him trailing only his father, Mario (52) and A.J. Foyt (67).
Smiling when asked about matching or surpassing his father’s victory total, the current CART FedEx Series star said, ``What is it, 12 now? It’s gettable before I retire.
``One of my desires for sure is to go after dad’s record.″
Mario, who retired in 1994, was in the pits timing his son’s laps during Sunday’s race.
Asked if Michael can catch him, the 60-year-old Mario, who won championships in both Formula One and Champ cars, said, ``I think so. I hope so.″
TO GO OR NOT TO GO: Although his team has scheduled a test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26 and 27, Roger Penske isn’t sure if the team will race in the Indy 500 next May.
Penske, whose team owns a record 10 Indy victories _ the last in 1994 _ has not run at the speedway since 1995, the last year before the rival Indy Racing League took over the crown jewel of the open-wheel sport and CART’s top teams began boycotting the race.
The boycott began to wilt last year when CART kept open the two weeks needed to run at Indy and four-time champion Target/Chip Ganassi Racing showed up and won the race, with defending CART champion Juan Montoya at the wheel.
Penske did participate at Indy last May, when the Penske-owned United Auto Group sponsored a car owned by Fred Treadway and driven by rookie Jason Leffler, who finished 17th.
``We have not been at Indy since ’95 and new cars, new rules, so we felt our toe in the water this year was the right way to go,″ Penske said Sunday. ``We were supporting a young rookie and we had some of our technical people there to understand the cars. What we want to do now is give both Gil, who has been there before, and Helio, who has never run at Indy, a chance to at least familiarize themselves with the track.″
The Penske drivers will have the use of the Treadyway car that Leffler drove.
``It’s an evaluation,″ Penske said. ``We’ve still made no commitment whether we’re going to go (next May).″
Tony George, president of the speedway and founder of the IRL, recently added a week of practice and qualifying to the Indy schedule, which could conceivably cause a problem for the CART teams. But Penske said he thinks it will work out.
``I don’t have any problem with that change at Indy,″ Penske said. ``If that’s what it is we’ll have to work around it. We’ll have to see what the CART schedule is, but at the moment, I think we’re OK.″
Ganassi has said his team will return to Indy regardless of the schedule and several other CART teams are known to be considering racing in the 500 next May.
The 2001 CART schedule is expected to be released within the next 10 days.
TESTING, TESTING: Dario Franchitti’s agent Julian Jakabi said Sunday in Toronto that the Scottish driver will likely test a Jaguar Formula One car during the week following the Chicago CART race on July 30.
``It should happen within the next two weeks,″ said Jakabi, who was visiting Franchitti’s current employer, CART team owner Barry Green. ``A lot depends on the weather. There is a rule in Formula One that a team can only test during an off-week, so will be one of the off weeks and we’ll know early next week.″
Green has made what Franchitti, whose current three-year deal ends at the end of this season, called ``a very generous offer″ in an effort to keep the 26-year-old racer.
``I’m hoping that he’ll stay around,″ Green said. ``I’d say we’ve got a good chance that he may. But we’ve also allowed him to go off and do this Formula One test.
``I think that shows how far out of the way we go to try to make the drivers happy. We benefit nothing from that (test). We probably can only lose from it, but the driver has to be happy.″
Meanwhile, Franchitti is struggling is CART. He went out in a first-lap crash on Sunday, taking defending series champion Juan Montoya, who also may move to Formula One next year, with him.
GREAT WHITE NORTH: Paul Tracy finished third Sunday and took a leaf from a popular north-of-the-border beer commercial in which a guy called Joe Canadian finishes a rant by saying, ``My names Joe and I’m Canadian.″
Drawing a huge cheer from the record crowd of 72,976, Tracy, who grew up in suburban Toronto, said, ``My name is Paul and I’m Canadian.″
Tracy, who hadn’t scored a point in the last four races, picked up 14 of them Sunday despite bouncing off a wall and bending his front suspension on a restart early in the race.
``I hit the wall and got up in a air a little when I was passing Gil (de Ferran) early on,″ he said. ``The steering wheel was a little askew, not to mention some debris clinging to the suspension. It was tough to handle the rest of the way, but I told myself, ’You’ve got to keep going.‴