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Michael Andretti Purchases a Team

Motor racing: CART's leading driver becomes majority owner of Team Green, which may move to Indy Racing League.

July 24, 2002|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Driver Michael Andretti, who has more wins than any other driver in CART history, became a car owner Tuesday when he and two partners purchased Team Green from owner Barry Green.

Andretti, 39, is the majority owner in a group that includes Green's brother, Kim, and Kevin Savoree.

The new team, which will begin operation Dec. 1, will be known as Andretti Green Racing.

Although Indy Racing League sources said it is expected that Andretti will move his team to the IRL next year, he was reluctant to make a definite statement with 10 races remaining on the CART FedEx schedule. He will race Sunday in Vancouver.

"I want to do the Indianapolis 500, that is a race I really want," he said. "It is all going to come down to the sponsors. I don't have anything solid. We hope to have an announcement in 60 days."

Indy is an IRL race, although CART drivers, including Andretti the last two years, have competed in it.

Andretti holds the record for leading the most laps at the Indy 500 without winning. In 13 starts, his best finishes are a second in 1991 and a third in 2001.

A major reason for Andretti's move to IRL would be to have Honda as his engine manufacturer. He and Team Green now drive Honda-powered Lolas in CART, but Honda has announced it will build engines only for IRL teams next year.

Andretti, with Motorola as his sponsor, is part of a three-driver team with Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti, both of whom are sponsored by Kool.

"We're looking at all our options," said Andretti. "Kim, J-F [Thormann, managing director of Andretti International] and I will do what we believe is in the best interests for Andretti Green Racing and all of its employees."

Mario Andretti, Michael's father and a former Indy 500 winner and Formula 1 champion, recently announced that he planned to form a CART team in partnership with Carl Haas and Paul Newman for the 2003 season.

The two apparently have no connection.

Michael Andretti leads CART drivers in wins with 42, the last one coming in this year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"Michael and I have enjoyed a close and productive relationship dating back to our days at Kraco Racing," Green said. "When he joined Team Green last year Michael mentioned he was interested in owning a race team at some stage of his career, but it wasn't until last winter that he approached me about buying the team.

"I saw this as a perfect opportunity not so much to sell Team Green, but to pass it on to my brother, Kevin and Michael."

Green said his decision to sell had nothing to do with his recent conflict with IRL officials at this year's 500, where it was ruled that Tracy passed winner Helio Castroneves after a yellow caution flag had been displayed on the next-to-last lap. Green and Tracy contended that the pass was made before the caution.

Team Green won the 1995 Indy 500 and the CART championship with Jacques Villeneuve.

If Andretti and either Tracy and/or Franchitti move to the IRL, it will be body blow to CART, which is already struggling with a shortage of drivers.

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