Andretti says Champ Car, IRL should eye MMP
TOOELE - Mario Andretti, perhaps the most recognized race car driver in the world, will have a message when he runs into his motorsports cronies as he travels the world making appearances for Texaco and working on a handful of his other business ventures.
There's this new road course race track in Utah "that you have got to see to believe," Andretti says.
Of course, the famed, semi-retired racer is talking about Miller Motorsports Park, having visited the facility last weekend to be the grand marshal for the Sunchaser 1000, a stop on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Andretti gave the command to start engines for the Saturday endurance race, drove a Ford GT to lead the parade lap and waved the green flag, among other activities.
He said he is "surprised" that officials from the two primary open-wheel series in the United States - Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series - haven't expressed more interest in making MMP a stop on one of their circuits.
"I am surprised that they haven't really looked at this, to be honest with you," he told The Salt Lake Tribune in an exclusive interview. "With a facility of this caliber, you would think the top categories of racing would want to be here. The thing [MMP] probably suffers from is not enough people know that it is here. . . . I am very, very impressed. They deserve to have the top categories of racing here."
It was Andretti's first visit to the state-of-the-art facility.
Racing fans know all about his unmatched record of success.
He is the only man ever to win the Formula One World Championship, the Champ Car National Championship (four times), the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring (three times) and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Asked if he had heard much about MMP, Andretti, who still has a full head of hair, joked, "I was warned about this facility and [its] infrastructure, and to bring a lot of hairspray" because it tends to be windy in Utah's west desert.
He said it is difficult to say whether the track would ever land a Champ Car or IRL event, but he believes it has a better chance with those series than with an upper-level NASCAR event such as Craftsman Trucks or the Busch Series because NASCAR tends to favor the tracks it owns for those events.
"It isn't so much [market size] as it is about what it will attract," he said. "People will travel great distances for events. What the drawing power of this particular venue is, I don't know. It is all about economics, ultimately."
While at the track, Andretti was reunited with the Ford Mk IV that he co-drove with the late Bruce McLaren to win the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1967. He also signed his photo on the Wall of Legends in Legends Hall and amazed fans with stories about all of the 43 racing legends depicted on the wall. He also took a couple of hot laps around the 4.486-mile full course in one of the track's race-readied Mustang Challenge cars.
"It's a challenging course because of its length," he said. "You have to really know what's in front of you because you don't have many reference points, which is a great challenge as far as I'm concerned." Salt Lake Tribune