INDIANAPOLIS – When your last name is Andretti, it’s almost destined that at some point in your career, you’ll end up racing something around the hallowed pavement of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This week, Jarett Andretti – the son of John Andretti, godson of NTT IndyCar Series team owner Michael Andretti and great-nephew of 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti – will finally get the opportunity to do just that as he competes in the Cooper Tires Freedom 100 for Indy Lights.
The third-generation driver, who has spent most of this season racing McLaren sports cars in the Pirelli GT4 America Series, will strap in for Andretti Autosport and drive the No. 18 Window World entry in his first go-round at the legendary facility – an opportunity he’s been waiting his entire life for.
Andretti’s driving deal was revealed prior to the Long Beach Grand Prix, and he completed a test session last month at Kentucky Speedway before turning his first laps around IMS during practice on Monday.
“Earlier this year, we were talking and Michael (Andretti) looked at me and said, ‘OK, we’re going to run you in the Freedom 100,” recalled Jarett Andretti. “We’d been looking for partners and such … actually when we made the initial announcement at Long Beach, we didn’t have a primary sponsor at that point, so I can’t thank Window World and all of our partners enough who stepped up to make this happen.
“Michael was committed to doing this no matter what, and that leap of faith in me was something that I really appreciated,” he continued. “At St. Petersburg, they stopped me and said, ‘Hey, you’re testing (at) Kentucky,’ and it’s just built from there pretty quickly, even though it came together pretty early.
“It’s a cool deal and I have to thank Michael for pulling the trigger. This is such a special opportunity.”
The 26-year-old has a vast diversity of racing experience on his career resume, having competed in non-winged sprint cars, supermodifieds and sports cars over the past decade.
However, this week’s Indy Lights race marks a completely different challenge for him, as it is his first time racing any sort of single-seater machinery.
“I’d never been in a single-seater on an oval before the Kentucky test, so this is all a new experience for me,” Jarett Andretti noted. “The only single-seater I drove before that was a racing school F-1600 car, so it was a totally different feeling. Actually, during about a 10-day stretch, I drove the McLaren (GT4) on Sunday at Long Beach, I drove the Lights car Thursday at Kentucky and I drove my sprint car at Spoon River (Speedway) on Saturday. It was three different feels and three totally different racing surfaces.
“The Lights car is interesting. It’s one of those things where you just have to get up to speed gradually, because if you go too fast too early it’ll bite you in a big way.”
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