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Andretti buys team from his car owner

The 39-year-old has yet to say which series he'll run in 2003.

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2002

Michael Andretti learned a lot about auto racing from his father. Not lost among the details of how to handle Indy cars at high speeds was knowing he would miss the sport if he left it entirely at retirement, as did his father, racing legend Mario Andretti.

Michael Andretti, who has a record 42 victories in CART, cemented his post-racing position in the sport Tuesday by announcing he had bought a majority interest in his current team, Team Green Racing, from Barry Green.

"I wanted to look beyond my driving years and set up a future still in auto racing," said Andretti, who makes his 300th CART start Sunday and plans to drive at least another season. "When the opportunity came, I jumped at it."

Andretti, 39, will be chief executive officer and Barry Green will retain a financial stake and be a consultant. New co-owners Kim Green, Barry's brother, and Kevin Savoree will be president and vice president, respectively. Kim Green runs Andretti's Team Motorola, a separate entity under Team Green, and Savoree is the chief operating officer. Andretti Green Racing will debut next season, but that's the only certainty so far.

Andretti remains unwilling to divulge whether he will remain with CART, switch to competitor IRL, or race in both. CART is scheduled to open its 2003 season in February with the St. Petersburg Grand Prix.

CART has lost ground to the IRL recently, with marquee Team Penske and engine manufacturers Honda and Toyota switching sides. Andretti uses Honda equipment, leading to speculation he might bolt for IRL.

"CART, at the moment, is in a very important time," Andretti said. "The jury is out on whether it will be positive or negative. (CEO Chris) Pook is working on a lot of positive things, but for now we have to wait and see how it will play out. In my heart I love CART, I love the series, I love the format, but the question is, is it too late?"

The choice of series also will depend on the will of sponsors, Barry Green said, especially because the new team has nothing tangible except a history of success.

"We do not have a signed sponsor, but we're going on what we're buying will sell itself," Andretti said. "(Sponsors) have given indications they are happy about the announcement. Do we have any ink? No, we have no ink."

Then there is the matter of retaining drivers Paul Tracy, who ranks second among active drivers with 18 wins, and Dario Franchitti, who is third in points. Both cars are sponsored by Kool, a cigarette brand. Tracy has said if the team joined the IRL, he would be inclined to switch to NASCAR. Franchitti is more successful on road and street courses, a major part of CART racing.

Andretti Green could undertake a logistical test in keeping Tracy and Franchitti in CART and sending Andretti to the IRL.

"We showed this year we are capable of running Indy and CART and introducing a new chassis into our CART program," said Barry Green, who fielded cars for all three drivers in the IRL's Indianapolis 500.

Andretti first broached the idea of buying into Team Green in April at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"I think (Mario Andretti) missed it that he was not directly involved with racing once he got out of the seat," said Andretti, whose father plans to buy into the Newman-Haas CART team next season. "I want to be involved, but actively involved. When I am retired I would like to stay in ownership, and this is where this process started."

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