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After Texas
Rank Driver Points

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2 Simon Pagenaud 313
3 Takuma Sato 312
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33 Zach Veach 23
34 Sage Karam 23
37 James Davison 21
38 Jack Harvey 17
39 Tristan Vautier 15
42 Buddy Lazier 14

Rookie of Year Standings
1. Ed Jones 228
2. Fernando Alonso 47
3. Zach Veach 23
4. Jack Harvey 17
5. Esteban Gutierrez 11
Michael Andretti - the real hero of IndyCar Racing

by Brian Carroccio
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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Michael Andretti - the real hero of IndyCar Racing
Readers of this space are probably somewhat familiar with the on-track accomplishments of Michael Andretti's He's the third winningest driver in the history of Indy Car style racing behind only A.J. Foyt and his father Mario.  He's the winningest driver under CART sanction, in which he won 42 races, the 1991 series championship, and finished second in the series standing 5 times. 

Some will point to his failure to win the Indianapolis 500 as a blight on his resume, but let's be honest here: Michael was a bad ass at the Brickyard, undoubtedly better than numerous men who won the race, nearly winning countless times, and leading more laps than any other non-winner.

Still, when it's all said and done, Michael's impressive accomplishments on-track will likely be a footnote on his resume.  Yes, Michael was a fabulous driver, one of the best of his time.  However, his accomplishments as a car owner, and more recently his work as a race promoter, pale in comparison to anything Michael ever did behind the wheel.

Andretti, of course, purchased the old Team Kool Green with Kim Green and Kevin Savoree in late-2002.  Savoree and Green would ultimately depart the team with Andretti becoming sole owner and rebranding the team Andretti Autosport in late 2009.  While the Penske and Ganassi teams have remained the gold standard of Indy Car racing over the past decade, Andretti Autosport, in its various incarnations has remained right there with them.  In fact, the team has posted 42 race wins since 2003, with Penske winning 49 and Ganassi winning 47.  The team captured IndyCar series titles in 2004, 2005, and 2007.  Also, the team notched Indianapolis 500 victories in 2005 and 2007 with Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti, respectively.  However, the on-track success of Andretti's team is only part of the story.

See, unlike Penske and Ganassi, Andretti has made significant investments in the long-term health of the sport.  For example, many IndyCar team owners have long neglected the sport's ladder system.  While I am not one to tell others how to spend their money, the fact remains, many team owners have often neglected the junior formula as a fertile ground for developing young talent.

Andretti, on the other hand, fields teams in Indy Lights, Star Mazda and Formula 2000, the 3 tiers on the Road to Indy.  Current Indy Car drivers J.R. Hildebrand and Charlie Kimball both drove for Andretti in the junior series.  Also, promising young American talents Sage Karam and Zach Veach both drive for Andretti in Star Mazda.

Also, over the past decade, Andretti has attracted numerous new sponsors to the sport, such as DHL, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Go Daddy, and Sun Drop.  While some sponsors such as 7-Eleven and Jim Beam have come and gone, Andretti has consistently shown the ability to cultivate and maintain sponsor interest.  We saw this in the case of Go Daddy, one year ago.

Of course, the online domain company was initially attracted to the sport when Danica Patrick drove for Andretti.  It was widely assumed last year that Go Daddy's relationship with IndyCar would end with Patrick's defection to NASCAR.  While Go Daddy did in fact, follow the marketing savvy Patrick south, Andretti was able to keep Go Daddy in the fold, originally resigning the charismatic Wheldon to drive for the team late in 2011.  Wheldon, of course, passed away following a gruesome accident in last year's season finale.  Ultimately, Andretti enlisted the media savvy James Hinchcliffe to fill the seat, and Go Daddy has continued using IndyCar racing as a vehicle to market its product.

Andretti, has also recently entered into the race promotion business with Andretti Sports Marketing.  While it is difficult to gauge his success in this latest venture, Andretti has taken over two IndyCar events in Milwaukee and Baltimore.

The Milwaukee Mile, has of course, been a favorite stop on the IndyCar calendar for decades, but fallen on hard times in recent years.  However, applying the success street race model to the venerable oval, Andretti's company created Milwaukee Indy Fest.  With carnival rides, concerts, and affordable ticket prices, Andretti re-energized what had become a dormant event on the calendar.

As for Baltimore, the street race around Camden Yards and the downtown Harbor had a smashing debut last September.  However, disagreements between the city and race promoter left the potentially successful event in doubt before Andretti's company stepped in to save it.  The race will run once again on Labor Day weekend, with a big crowd expected.

Now, it must be noted that in saving races, activating sponsor deals, or nurturing young American talent, Andretti is not acting out of charity.  He is a business man, and by all indications an extremely successful one, who did not become wealthy by giving away money.  Further, it remains to be seen if events such as Milwaukee and Baltimore will return to the calendar.

Still, no one, in my opinion, is currently doing more for the sport right now than Michael Andretti.  Whether its attracting sponsors like DHL and Sun Drop through a charismatic good looking American like Ryan Hunter-Reay, nurturing promising young talent, or rescuing downtrodden events, Andretti is attempting to make the business of IndyCar work.  And perhaps best of all, he is showing everyone it can, in fact, be done. Brian Carroccio

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