Work in Sports
Andretti signs with Green, makes run at Mario
INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Andretti, still in the running for a second CART championship with Newman-Haas Racing, will leave at the end of the 2000 season to become the third driver for team owner Barry Green.
The announcement was made Tuesday in Indianapolis, where Team Green works out of a 44,000-square foot race shop and currently fields cars for Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti, who will be Andretti's teammates beginning in 2001.
Andretti, who said he turned down a one-year contract extension with Newman-Haas, signed a five-year deal with Team Green to drive the No. 39 Reynard-Honda sponsored by Motorola, which also signed on for five years.
Green said the last two years of both contracts are option years.
"Carl (Haas) basically released me and made me a free agent," said Andretti, who will turn 38 on Oct. 5. "The first person we let that be known to was Barry. I liked his operation and it seemed like everything just came together and clicked right from the beginning."
Green previously worked with Andretti from 1986-1988 at Kraco Racing. The driver won seven of his CART-record 40 victories and finished second in the points twice during those three years when Green was his team manager.
When Andretti first began talking about leaving his ride with Newman-Haas, where he has spent a total of 10 years in two stints, including the last five seasons, he said that any future deal would have to include the rival Indy Racing League's Indianapolis 500.
Although Andretti wouldn't completely rule out a shot at Indy, where his father Mario won in 1969, he and Green both said that did not appear likely in 2001.
Green said "CART's schedule does not lend itself to running a competitive program at Indy next year. We're going to focus on three cars in CART. Team Green will not enter a car in the Indy 500 next season. We've got a lot of work to do, we know that."
Asked if he would allow Andretti to take an IRL ride for the 500, Green said he would be willing to discuss the possibility, but made no commitment.
Most of the CART teams and drivers have boycotted the 500 since the IRL began competing and took over the May event in 1996. However, four-time defending CART champion Chip Ganassi Racing returned to Indy in May and drivers Juan Montoya and Jimmy Vasser finished first and seventh.
Andretti, the 1991 series champion, currently stands third in the closest championship battle in CART history. Going into Sunday's race in Houston, Texas, Andretti trails leader Gil de Ferran by just 10 points and is five ahead of fourth-place Tracy.
Green also announced Tuesday he will drop his current two-car effort in the Indy Lights support series, using some of the personnel from that effort to run the third CART team.
"We're also going to be looking at some other key personnel," Green said. That is expected to include Peter Gibbons, Andretti's longtime engineer who is currently still under contract to Newman-Haas.
As if adding a third car isn't enough, Green might be ready to
follow fellow CART team owner and its current interim president and
CEO, Bobby Rahal, into Formula One. Rahal will take over as CEO of
Jaguar Racing in December, while Green is reputed to be under
consideration to run the British American Racing-Honda team while,
like Rahal, retaining his ownership in CART.