LONG BEACH, Calif – On Friday, Andretti Autosport announced that they’ll field an entry in the Indy Lights race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Jarrett Andretti. It was a feel good press conference this afternoon from Long Beach as Michael Andretti has worked so hard to allow his cousin John Andretti’s son an opportunity with one of his teams.
“This is very important to me personally,” said Michael Andretti. “Me and John (Andretti) are very, very close. We’ve been close our whole lives, growing up together. To help bring one of his dreams come true, it’s cool to be able to do that.
“Jarett (Andretti) is a part of our team there anyway. He’s been there for a long time. It’s nice to finally get him out there and do something out there at the Speedway. Yeah, for me personally, it’s really exciting to be part of this.”
Andretti, said his goal is to allow Jarret to work towards a future with his team. He’d love to have him on the Indy Lights side full time and maybe even a seat with his four car NTT IndyCar Series operation one day as well.
“It would be a goal of mine if we can work something out, for sure,” Michael continued. “I assume it would be a goal of Jarett’s. I think you got to start here. Indy Lights is such a great training ground. Hopefully it goes well, we can maybe turn it into something bigger.”
Jarrett, said that he agrees with that and that he’s really enjoying the road racing action. See, Jarrett is a dirt racer by nature. He’s a sprint car driver. He doesn’t have much background in racing on road courses, something that both Indy Lights and Indy Car spends more time on than not.
“I think this is the first step, dip your toe in the water, kind of see if we can make that work. Just never know what the future holds,” said Jarrett. “Everybody is a rookie. They have run cars on ovals and stuff, but not an Indy Lights car. I think that’s a nice, even playing ground. That’s one of the things about Indy Lights, usually guys go there and graduate. You’re kind of judging yourself against guys with similar experience. I think that’s a great part of the platform and I’m looking forward to that.”
Andretti, says that he thinks there are extremely good drivers in USAC right now that are just as deserving of a shot in Indy Lights and Indy Car.
“There’s guys like Kody Swanson, he should not be in a Silver Crown car full-time. I think hopefully I can run well and get other guys opportunities. I think the short track world has been overlooked. I take it personally. I think other guys in the short track world take it personally, as well. I think you just try to make your mark, that gives the next guy an opportunity.
“There’s talented guys there. You just look at Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, what they’re doing in NASCAR, it proves that the talent is there at the Sprint car midget level.”
Michael Andretti said that fielding a fourth car will be no problem at all due to them normally fielding four full time cars in the series. With only three cars for them on a full time basis in 2019, expanding to a fourth is no big deal for them.
But, it’s the fact that he has to field four cars is what grinds Andretti’s gears. He doesn’t understand why most of the other owners in Indy Car, nor the series itself is giving the series the attention that it deserves.
“It’s very important,” said Andretti of his Indy Lights program. “I think it’s very important to the series. I think it really ticks me off some of the owners that don’t get behind it. Look at the talent that comes out of the series every year. One comes out, comes in, they’re competitive.
“It’s a really good training ground for our drivers. I think we all should get behind it. I do get really pissed off, to be honest with you, that they don’t get more involved because in the end it’s good for all of us if we make the ladder series strong. It’s just going to bring more talent. Not only just the drivers, but the mechanics you can train, you can train engineers.
“It works very, very well for us. It’s something that I’m not going to give up on. I think there’s some plans to make it better in the future, which I’m actually pretty excited about.
“I think IndyCar is realizing how important it is. I think you’ll see them get behind it a little more.”
Road to Indy launched in 2010. Last year at Indy, 27 alumni among 35 drivers vying for starting spots.
From the outset in 1986, Indy Lights established itself as the preeminent training ground for future IndyCar stars with champions Scott Dixon, Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan, Greg Moore and Paul Tracy making immediate impacts. Over the past nine seasons, more than 20 graduates have secured IndyCar rides including six former Indy Lights champions (Josef Newgarden, Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves, Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones and Kyle Kaiser).
The talent is there. Andretti, just has his own playground in it right now.