February 1, 2003
INDIANAPOLIS -- Former CART champion Michael Andretti will retire as a driver after the Indianapolis 500 in May to concentrate on being a car owner.
The 40-year-old son of former Indy winner Mario Andretti bought the former Team Green last fall and began running Andretti Green Racing with partners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree in December.
The team moved from CART to the rival IRL with former CART drivers Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan as Andretti's teammates.
Those three will drive in the first four IRL races this season, with rookie Dan Wheldon taking Andretti's place after the Indy 500 on May25.
"We're ready. I'm very excited with the way testing has gone, with the way this whole team has come together," Andretti said Friday at a team reception at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I think we're going to be competitive right out of the box."
He first hinted two weeks ago he would be owner and driver early in the season, which begins March2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
But Indy remains special for Andretti.
"It's definitely something I want to do, I definitely would love to win that race before I retire," said Andretti, who will try for the 14th time. "They say it's just another race, and it is, but it isn't.
"It's a very difficult race to win ... but we're going to go after it."
Andretti was the Indy 500 co-rookie of the year in 1984 and has led more laps in the race than any other nonwinner. But he said the difficulty being an owner and driver prompted his decision to refocus the direction of his career.
"It's quite different being an owner," Andretti said after his new team's first offseason test at Homestead. "Now, when you go (to a test), your responsibilities are much different. When you're a driver, all you really have to worry about is driving."
He was the runner-up to Rick Mears at Indianapolis in 1991 and finished third in 1988 and 2001. He was seventh last year.
SMITH STILL PURSUING: Bruton Smith is in a "buying mood" for Winston Cup tracks, and the chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., said his shopping list includes properties owned by the rival International Speedway Corp.
Days after NASCAR's management team announced a plan to aggressively realign the Winston Cup schedule beginning in 2004 by relocating dates, Smith declared "all options open" in his pursuit of a second race at his Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
But Smith reiterated he was promised a second date at Texas Motor Speedway and thus will neither buy nor rent one from a rival promoter or move a date from one of his tracks.
NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr., whose family also owns International Speedway Corp., said last week that Smith could satisfy his desire for a second Cup date in Texas by moving one of two dates from his Atlanta Motor Speedway or Lowe's Motor Speedway.