Michael Andretti excels as race promoter
By Jenna Fryer ,AP
June 21, 2012, 12:39 am TWN
Michael Andretti could have walked away from racing 10 years ago and eased his way into the kind of cushy retirement afforded one of the greatest drivers in open-wheel history.
But racing is in his blood, it's his business, and there's no such thing as walking away.
“You would have to say IndyCar is all there has been (for me) for a long time,” Andretti said Tuesday. “If IndyCar is not around, then we're not around. My whole life is tied to it, I'm all in.”
Never more so than this season, when Andretti has widened his role beyond team owner to race promoter. He juggled the dual roles to perfection last weekend at Milwaukee, where his Andretti Sports Marketing group successfully staged a race on four months' notice. As a team owner, he celebrated his first win of the season when driver Ryan Hunter-Reay took Andretti Autosport to Victory Lane.
“It's pretty gratifying and definitely ranks up there as one of the greatest weekends of being an owner,” Andretti said. “And to be able to win in the race you are also promoting, it was awesome.”
That's been the buzz since Saturday, when Andretti proved that racing can be saved in tradition-rich Milwaukee. The 109-year-old track was left off the IndyCar schedule announced in December, but when the series needed another event — particularly at an oval race track — Andretti stepped up in February with a promise to put on a good show. Even with a race-day rain delay, the two-day event drew strong crowds and Andretti announced before the green flag that he'd decided to promote Milwaukee again next year.
But even before a single lap had been turned at his first event as a promoter, Andretti had stepped up again to help IndyCar. He saved the troubled Baltimore race last month, when he signed on as promoter of the Labor Day weekend race. His staff had shifted to Baltimore by Tuesday to focus solely on its next event.
It's added work for a team owner who fields three IndyCar teams — he stepped it up to five to help fill the Indianapolis 500 field — and has entries in all three of the development series.