BROOKLYN, Mich. — Michael Andretti is worried about the Indianapolis 500.
He's worried about it this year, and he's worried about it long range.
He figures that the feud that has left Indy car racing with two competing events this Memorial Day weekend will have serious, negative effects on the race he, and so many of his fellow drivers, consider the sport's crown jewel.
And he blames Tony George, the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the founder of the new Indy Racing League, the man behind the split.
It was George's decision to reserve 25 of the 33 starting spots in the Indy 500 for his IRL drivers that put him at odds with the established Indy car group, Championship Auto Racing Teams, which eventually chose to go its own way with its own race, the competing U.S. 500, here Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
Andretti will be racing here, but his heart--and his fears--will be at Indy.
"I'm holding my breath. I'm very worried," he said. "That could be a very scary race. There's a lot of good drivers, but I don't know if they're ready for Indy. And there's no good equipment.
"There's a lot of unknown equipment and a lot of underfinanced teams. And the crews? There are only so many quality people, and there's a lot of inexperience there. All you need is one guy forgetting to tighten a nut and . . ."
In changing the rules for the Indy 500, George mandated that there be no new equipment this year, so everything there is old, used or both.
The start, Andretti figures, will be especially dangerous at Indy, because 17 of the 33 drivers have never driven there and some of those have never driven an Indy car race anywhere.
"They haven't experienced that first lap; they'll have no idea what's happening," he said. "And some of the guys up front, the ones going quick, are the ones you'd hold your breath with if you were racing with them."
Those are his immediate concerns.
And things can only get worse, he figures, if the split continues.
"What [George] is doing is not helping racing one bit," he said. "The Indy 500 is supposed to be the greatest drivers in the greatest event in racing, and that's not what's happening.
"I've always gotten along with Tony. I just don't agree with what he's doing. I'm not sure he realizes what he's doing. I believe he could really end up hurting one of the greatest sports events in the world. I'm not sure it'll ever be the same, and that'll be a shame for everybody. Nobody will win."
Andretti sees CART as having bent over backward to heal the rift.
"CART has tried to compromise and still is willing to do that, but [George] won't hear it," he said. "It's as if he's paranoid. He thought CART was going to come in and take over his race.
"I have no problem with the [IRL] drivers. It's their big chance. They have to make a living too. If I was out of a ride, maybe I'd be there too.
"I just hope it works out, more so for Tony than for us. We've proved that we can put on a good series of races every season. This is going to be a great race here. I just think he's the one who's going to hurt the most in the long run."
Motor Racing Notes
Veteran driver Gary Bettenhausen, 54, qualified for the 27th and final spot in the U.S. 500 here Friday. Driving a Penske-Mercedes for his brother, Tony, Bettenhausen put the car in the field at 208.607 mph, nearly 24 mph slower than pole-sitter Jimmy Vasser's Reynard-Honda. . . . Paul Tracy, who will be starting on the inside of the third row, escaped injury when he crashed in his backup car during practice. Hiro Matsushita was just exiting the pits when Tracy spun into him, inflicting serious suspension damage on Matsushita's car. Matsushita also was uninjured.