All four drivers back at AGR For the first time since 2005, when Andretti Green Racing won the second of consecutive IndyCar Series championships, the team’s four-driver lineup returns intact.
Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick return to the team after combining for two victories, 21 top-five finishes and 40 top-10s in 68 starts in 2008. After its drivers finished third, sixth, seventh and 10th in the championship point standings, the team has high hopes that having everyone back can lead to another title in 2009.
“Continuity is definitely a nice thing,” said team co-owner Michael Andretti, who has overseen three series titles in the last five seasons. “There’s no adjusting going on. That’s always good because you can hit it strong right away. Everybody knows everybody. That’s definitely a positive for us.”
Kanaan has been the only constant on the team that joined the IndyCar Series in 2003. In 98 career starts, the 2004 series champion has had full-time teammates that have included Bryan Herta, 2005 champion Dan Wheldon and 2007 champion Dario Franchitti. Marco Andretti debuted with the team in 2006, Patrick signed on in 2007 and Mutoh joined in 2008.
“Last year was a year we could say, ‘Oh, they’re young, they’re learning,’ but now it’s time to do it,” Kanaan said about the team’s high expectations. “We did not deliver as much as we should have last year. I think we failed on the driver’s side to get it done. We talked, and this year we’re saying no excuses.”
“It’s always nice to have a little bit of continuity, especially among the drivers,” said Patrick, who earned her first career victory in 2008, her second season with the team and fourth overall. “It’s such an important dynamic, especially for Andretti Green. There’s always a certain grace period that exists with new teammates and getting to know each other, and each other’s trends, each other’s habits and each other’s demeanor. It’s nice to have that consistency.”
While there is consistency in the drivers’ seats, behind-the-scenes changes during the offseason include the hiring of Peter Gibbons as engineer for Andretti’s car, Eddie Jones moving to the engineer position for Patrick’s car and Michael Andretti moving from race strategist for his 22-year-old son to Patrick.
“When you’re in a team like this and you make one change it affects another thing and another, so you really have to think out your strategy on how it’s going to affect your overall scheme,” Michael Andretti said. “I ended up being the guy that’s going to take over Danica’s radio. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think it will be good for her. I’ll try and help her out as much as I can with my experience. Peter Gibbons is going to be Marco’s engineer, and Eddie Jones going over to Danica are all positive moves. I think we’ve strengthened our teams.”
So does Kanaan, a fierce competitor who wasn’t happy finishing third in 2008.
“Everybody put their requests into Santa Claus as far as what they want for their own teams, and everybody got what they want, so basically it’s time to go back to work, and there won’t be any excuses,” he said.