This time Andretti has two full weeks to prepare for 500 John Andretti will actually get to unpack his bags and settle into his hometown as he prepares for his 10th appearance in the Indianapolis 500 this week.
Andretti, the Indy native and one of the most versatile drivers competing in auto racing today, hasn’t had the opportunity the last two years to run the full days of May at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A winner in Indy Cars, NASCAR Cup Stock cars and world-renowned sports cars, Andretti has been vaulted into a second weekend of qualifications in a late entry for the 33-driver field.
Each time, the Mooresville, N.C., resident has placed a car in the starting lineup on the final days of time trials and turned in a solid race performance without much preparation.
That situation will change this year for the veteran racer who still competes regularly on the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Andretti comes to the “Brickyard” with a legendary car owner [seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty] and a solid sponsor [Window World] for the entire month of Indy 500 activities. Andretti will drive the No. 43 Window World Honda Dallara during the month.
“The big thing with this new deal is that we’re starting on the first day out,” said Andretti, whose best Indy 500 finish was fifth in 1991. “I feel like I can go there and work really hard to make sure everything is there for us as a team. We’re coming in with a really serious effort. I have driven for Richard in NASCAR and I always wanted him to own a team at Indy. We just had to do it properly.”
Andretti believes that teaming up with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, a regular IndyCar Series operation, helps his new Richard Petty-owned Indy Car team for the month of May. Led by veteran Larry Curry, the Dreyer & Reinbold team brings years of experience to Andretti’s effort.
“The Dreyer & Reinbold team has spent a lot of money in development this year,” he said. “It’s not like we’re coming in part-timing this thing or just to have fun with it. The month of May is a unique month at Indy. Indy is a track I passed every day when I was going to high school. Our family grew up around the Speedway. To have Richard be a part of it, my passion is to always do well in the No. 43.”
Two of auto racing’s most famous names — Petty and Andretti — come together again this week when practice runs get underway for the 2009 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
“Last year was the first time that I’ve been there for the race,” said Petty. “With STP [as a sponsor], we used to go up there for qualifying, but we always had our Cup racing to get back to. The atmosphere at the 500 is something special. You just have to be there to really understand how big it is. You can tell people how big these events are, but you have to be there.”
Joining Petty and Andretti in the unique Indy 500 partnership is Window World, the world’s largest replacement window company from North Wilkesboro, N.C. Window World sponsored Andretti earlier this year at the Daytona 500.
“We want to build our brand,” said Todd Whitworth, president of Window World. “Partnering with the names of John Andretti, Richard Petty and the Dreyer & Reinbold group are certainly going to help us do that and the involvement in the biggest race in the world.”
Andretti will have three teammates to share information with the Petty and Dreyer & Reinbold affiliation as Indy 500 veterans Davey Hamilton and Milka Duno joined Andretti along with rookie Mike Conway.
Andretti was the first driver to compete in both the Indy 500 and Charlotte 600 on the same day back in 1994. With his full month commitment at Indy, Andretti will not be driving at Charlotte this year. But he will rejoin the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour at the Dover, Del., race on May 31.
Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, co-owned by Indianapolis businessman Dennis Reinbold and former driver Robbie Buhl, has fielded cars in the Indy 500 since 2000. Reinbold’s grandfather, “Pop” Dreyer was a famed motorcycle racer in 1920s and built contending Indy 500 cars in the 1930s and 1940s. Buhl competed in eight Indy 500 Mile Races in his driving career.
“It is great to have a Petty and an Andretti teaming up with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for this year’s Indy 500,” said Reinbold “The names of Petty and Andretti are the biggest in racing. And the Dreyer name has been renown in the Indy 500. So it made sense to combine all for a solid effort this year. Bringing in Window World as a primary sponsor has given Richard, John and our team a chance to be a contending program in the world’s biggest race. We’re excited to get started on Wednesday.”
This year’s Indianapolis 500 begins a three-year Centennial celebration for the legendary two and a half mile oval which opened in 1909. The first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race was held in 1911. No Indy 500 races were contested during World War I (1917-18) and World War II (1942-43-44-45).
Practice sessions for the 2009 Indianapolis 500 begin on Wednesday, May 6, with qualifying rounds set for May 9-10 and May 16-17. Final practice is Friday, May 22, with the popular Carb Day activities. The 93rd Indy 500 is scheduled for 1 p.m. [EDT] on Sunday, May 24.