By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH, California – One for the sprint car world and one for John Andretti. Sprint car driver Jarett Andretti (John’s son) will compete in a fourth Andretti Autosport Indy Lights entry for next month’s Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
To acclimate himself into an Indy Lights car, notably the cockpit, Jarett will be testing at Kentucky Speedway next week before testing at Indy, and with his participation 2.5-mile circuit, he’ll become the seventh Andretti to race in the month of May.
“That will be good to kind of get acclimated, get through the bar changes, things like that, just to get comfortable with the cockpit,” said Jarett. “The Sprint car has shock adjustors, but they’re only one way, so they’re a lot less complicated than on the Indy Lights car. We’ll work through that and get comfortable, then go to Indy.”
Jarett’s godfather and Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti said that the deal has been in development for a period of time, and spoke to John about giving Jarett an opportunity to compete in Indy Lights, making John’s dream come true as he’s been working with Jarett’s sprint car program for years, even while battling colon cancer, he’s still active in his son’s racing career.
“I’m really excited about this. We’ve been talking about it for quite some time, especially with John,” said Michael. “He’s always had a dream to see his son drive at Indy. I’m glad we’re making it a reality this year. Jarett has been doing a great job in Sprint cars which run out of our shop, I don’t know, the last four or five years.
“This year he’s been driving for us in the GT4 and McLaren, doing a great job for his first time ever on road courses. We thought it was time to get him out, run at the Speedway. I think it will be the seventh Andretti to compete at the Indianapolis racetrack. It’s pretty cool.”
Jarett commented that John has been doing well and reflected on his relationship with him, and how his battle hasn’t dampened John’s spirits to the point that it hasn’t stopped him from being a mechanic.
“He’s doing pretty well right now. He came Sprint car racing with me last weekend. Goes to the car washes, up till 3 in the morning. I can’t get him to stop,” said Jarett. “I don’t know. I mean, he’s doing really well as far as that goes. He’s obviously going through chemo again, treatments and stuff. I’ve never seen it let him affect him. It’s really an inspiration, so… As far as the dream part, we worked on — we built our Sprint car team together hand-in-hand, just us going to the races together sometimes, him working on the car, me driving the car. He lives with me in the summers for four or five months. We had every meal together.
“He’s a really good mechanic. A lot of people don’t know that about him, but he’s an extremely talented mechanic. He can get on a lathe, do stuff. He can’t weld, but he can do about anything else. We’ve done it all together. Just to kind of go through this process together, it’s been great. Great to put the McLaren deal together with him, all the other stuff that’s happening. It’s as much of a byproduct of his hard work as it is mine.”
Coming from the world of sprint cars, notably on dirt, he was vocal about top drivers, such as multi-time USAC champion Kody Swanson and NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell, not getting an opportunity to compete at Indianapolis, and hopes he can start the positive trend of sprint car drivers having opportunities in both Indy Lights and the NTT IndyCar Series.
“I think there’s extremely talented people in Sprint car. There’s guys like Kody Swanson, he should not be in a Silver Crown car full-time,” Jarett explained. “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 agreed with Jarett’s comments, saying the door is open for talented sprint car competitors to compete at Indianapolis.
“It would We always have the door open if we can put something together. I think there’s a tremendous amount of talent in those cars,” said Michael. “It is unfortunate you see a lot of these guys, their talent gets overlooked, end up they spend their whole career there. When everybody with talent goes down and tries to race them, they can’t beat them. You see that all the time. It is a shame when sometimes these guys get overlooked. Yeah, it would be cool if we could put something together to help some of the others get out of there. We’re always here to listen.”
With Friday’s announcement made, Jarett is excited to compete at Indianapolis, where his family have had the highest of highs and lowest of lows that isn’t seen from any other motorsports family in history.
“I get to go to the Speedway, drive by there all the time, live in Indianapolis, grew up in Indianapolis. It means a lot,” said Jarett. “Good to get dad out to the Speedway again. He always gets a little pep in his step when he gets to go out there, see everybody, be a part of something. That’s going to be exciting. I mean, I’m just really excited to get rolling. Be my first experience in a single seater on an oval. I look forward to that. Just kind of working my way through the process.”