In today’s IndyCar media conference to ask questions about Devlin Defrancesco becoming a full-time IndyCar driver, (see transcript below) Michael Andretti was asked about the failed Sauber deal.
“I’d just like to put an end to some of those rumors that the deal fell through because of financial reasons,” Andretti said.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth, and it was nothing to do with that.
“It basically came down to control issues in the final hours of negotiations, and that’s what killed the deal.
“I’ve always said that if the deal is not right, we’re not going to do it. And in the end, it wasn’t right.
“And so we continue to look for other opportunities.”
Faced with a similar question later, he reiterated: “I commented earlier, don’t believe the rumors like you were hearing about why it didn’t happen. It had nothing to do with financials or anything like that.
“Unfortunately, at the 11th hour, control issues changed and it was a deal we had to step away from because we couldn’t accept it.”
Asked what he meant by the control issues, Andretti seemed to indicate the terms of the deal wouldn’t have given him as much leeway in heading up the operation as he would’ve liked.
Andretti clarified there was no behind-the-scenes push from F1’s American owner Liberty Media to help the deal go through, but said, “I think they would like it” to have happened.
When asked if F1 was now off the agenda for Andretti Autosport, he said that was not the case.
“Our eyes are always going to stay open, we’re always going to look for opportunity there,” said Andretti.
“Not just there, but in other formulas as well, other types of racing. That’s what we do, we’re in the racing business, and we’re always looking for opportunities to expand.
“But when we do expand, we have to make sure that it’s a proper deal that we know we can be competitive because that’s very important for our brand: to be competitive in anything that we do.”
On the subject of IndyCar front-runner Colton Herta’s involvement in a potential F1 project, Andretti confirmed that the 21-year-old American would’ve “led the way for us” in the driver line-up.
“In terms of wanting to bring in American drivers, he’s the perfect guy to do it,” said Andretti.
“We were definitely going to try to get him into the seat because I believe he could be a competitive driver in Europe. I really do.”
Press Conference Transcript
- Devlin DeFrancesco
- Michael Andretti
- George Steinbrenner IV
DAVE FURST: Announced earlier today, very exciting news. Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport announcing that Devlin DeFrancesco will drive the No. 29 Honda for the upcoming 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series season. DeFrancesco heads to the INDYCAR series after competing in Indy Pro 2000 back in 2020 and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires just last season.
Devlin joins us this season as does Michael Andretti, the CEO and chairman of Andretti Autosport, and George Steinbrenner IV, CEO of Steinbrenner Racing. Congratulations to all three.
Let’s start with Michael. Michael, you’ve had the opportunity really to see Devlin the last few seasons down in the Road to Indy. How big is today’s news for you and your race team?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We’re really excited. It’s actually exciting when a plan comes together. This is something that started quite a few years ago, and with Dev driving for us first in Mazdas and then in Lights, and he finished second at the championship in Mazdas and probably had a better shot at winning if we as a team maybe would have had more experience to help him out in that way, so he did really well there, and then had a pretty good year in Lights.
The plan was always for him to get to INDYCARs right about now, and it’s really great when it all comes together. I’m really excited.
DAVE FURST: George Steinbrenner IV also joins us this morning. As mentioned, this was the goal for Devlin’s career. To see this day come to fruition, how satisfying?
GEORGE STEINBRENNER IV: It’s extremely satisfying. It’s hard even from Michael and myself’s perspective to get anyone in INDYCAR when you’re starting from the junior formulas; to sort of put a whole program together around a person can be difficult and challenging. To sort of get it all put together, get Devlin in INDYCAR for the foreseeable future hopefully, and yeah, I think it’s going to be a really good year. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of folks.
DAVE FURST: Devlin, how excited are you, especially you finally get that call, the deal is done, you’re now a driving in the NTT INDYCAR Series?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: Thank you. For me of course today is a dream come true. After driving the INDYCAR for the first few days I was really impressed and I got to grips with it quite quickly, and just a huge rush of positive emotion right now. I have so many people and supporters to thank for this day. It really is a dream come true for myself.
Q. You’re bringing certainly sponsorship that was with you in Indy Lights. How important is it for you to maintain those relationships as you move up to the NTT INDYCAR Series?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: No, of course, I’ve had such great support from such great partners, and to be able to keep those people on for next year and also have some new partners is a great — is something personally great for me. Kimoa, Simply Mac, Fyllo, Powertap, Sol Yoga, Jones Soda, to have these people on board for next year on the No. 29 car is really exciting, and I truly am grateful for it.
Q. Devlin, you talked about feeling like you got the speed fairly quickly in the INDYCAR in your couple days of testing that you’ve gone through so far. How would you rate your comfort in that car already compared to what you felt in your one year in the Indy Lights car?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: Honestly, personally, I found the car suited me much more. I got to grips with it quite quickly. Definitely from midday onwards in Sebring I was already coming to grips with it and then Barber it didn’t take me that long to get up to speed. I really enjoy the car. I can’t wait to be in the thing again, and I’m really excited to get going for next year.
Q. Michael, I know you guys had a big group to choose from with four Indy Lights drivers filling this lone slot. Between Kyle, your Lights champion, and the other drivers along with Devlin, how did you guys finally end up landing with Devlin to fill in that 29 seat?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, like I said, it was a long-range plan. It wasn’t something that we just came up with overnight. We’ve had this planned out a few years ago. It was more basically just following the plan.
But I want to comment, as well, on Devlin at his test, I think he did very well. I think an INDYCAR is really going to suit his style. He’s a very aggressive style, which I think in Indy Lights probably was not as good for his driving style, but I think INDYCAR you have to be very aggressive, and he is, and I think that’s why if you saw, he was actually quicker than Kyle Kirkwood in the last test on the same day. That says something because everybody rates Kyle.
For him to go out and go quicker than Kyle I thought was really great there at a very tough track, too. Barber is not an easy racetrack.
I’m very excited about this, and I think Dev is going to turn a lot of heads this year.
Q. Kyle told us on Monday that he now has the chance to speak with other teams now that his option has been lifted; do you still expect or have hope that he’ll be in an Andretti car of some sort next year?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Probably not next year. Definitely we’re going to be watching him for the future. Unfortunately the way things ended, there wasn’t room for him, but I can assure you that he’s a star of the future, and we’re definitely going to be watching him. Hopefully down the road there could be an opportunity to get him back in the family.
Q. Can you give us any sort of an update on where your Formula 1 pursuits stand at this point?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, I mean, I think I’d just like to put an end to some of these rumors that the deal fell through because of financial reasons. That couldn’t be further from the truth. That had nothing to do with that. It basically came down to control issues in the final hours of the negotiations. That’s what killed the deal.
I’ve always said if the deal is not right, we’re not going to do it, and in the end it wasn’t right. So we continue to look for other opportunities.
Q. The team is getting younger with the exception of Romain coming over. It’s going to be a much younger team that you have. I believe that Alexander Rossi is the most battle-tested driver that you’ve got now. How important is it for your team to get younger and bring in some of this new talent and help them develop and become stars?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think it’s very important. I think there’s such great talent out there right now, and so it’s not by mistake you’re seeing these kids going out and running with the veterans right away.
Yeah, I mean, you’ve got to look at the future. When guys are getting closer to the end of their career, you want to try to find the next hot young guy that hopefully you can get in your stable and win a lot of races with and hopefully keep in your stable.
Q. Also at ROP when Romain was going through ROP, James Hinchcliffe was working with him as kind of a consultant on the radio. I asked you that day if you’d like to keep James around in some capacity even if it was a non-driving capacity and you expressed your interest. What can you tell us about that, because right now he probably doesn’t really have anything going.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, I’d definitely love to keep him in our family in some way. We love James. He’s just such a great personality, and he’s been — he’s got great experience. We’re hoping to somehow keep him within the team. We don’t have that confirmed yet, though.
Q. Do you think he’d be well-suited for the role of kind of driver liaison to work with the other drivers and give some feedback, similar to what Dario does over at Chip Ganassi Racing?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think he’d be very good at that, yes. With his experience and personality, I think he’d be really good at that.
Q. For Dev, just wanted to know how does this change your personal life? Are you going to be moving closer to the Andretti shop, working out more? How does all of this change becoming an INDYCAR driver?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: So for sure to answer the first question, yes, I’m currently looking at getting a condo, an apartment in Indy near the Andretti shop, so that’s currently in progress.
From the training-wise, I’d say no. I have a trainer in Miami, BOXR Studios. His name is Matthew, who trains a lot of top athletes. He’s an ex-Olympian himself. I’d say fitness-wise, the days I had in INDYCAR, it actually wasn’t as heavy as I was expecting, which is potentially a good thing, so for fitness-wise I don’t think that is the main issue. For sure did a training regime over the winter, lots of karting, lots of training, two sessions a day, all that fun stuff, but from that side of it, no.
Q. Looking at your biggest barometer for success going into 2022, is it going to be your teammates, or are you looking at your fellow rookies?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: I’m just taking it honestly all in my stride and seeing where we stack up. I think the tests were very encouraging. I’m just excited to get out next year and see where we stack up, and I think there’s going to be quite a few races next year where we seem to turn some heads.
Q. Michael, we’re barely into November and your four-car team is locked and loaded for 2022; is that a sense of relief, or what are your thoughts as you already have things kind of settled for next year?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Huge relief. It’s actually — we’re basically on multiyear deals, as well, which is the first time in the history of the team that we’ve had that. Normally at this time we don’t even have four cars wrapped up, but to have it multiyear is very exciting and I think really good for the team, to have that security so we can focus on different things and making our team better, not just trying to make sure we are race cars on the racetrack.
Q. The waiting is the hardest part now, right?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Exactly, just want to get going for sure.
Q. Devlin, Michael was saying that he thinks the INDYCAR suits you a lot better than the Lights car and obviously you’ve shown some speed in testing. Just curious how well you think the INDYCAR suits you and maybe knowing how well it can suit you what you think is attainable in 2022.
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: Thank you for your question. So generally I think the INDYCAR you’re able to combine a lot more with the Firestone tire. I think that obviously plays to my strengths.
There’s much more aero, as well, so able to carry a lot more momentum speed and be a lot more aggressive in the medium high-speed stuff, as well, which suits me quite more. I’m excited to get going racing, try reds out for the first time, seeing what those do in qualifying. There’s a lot of stuff that I’m looking forward to doing, and I think there’s definitely going to be some good results in the pipeline for 2022.
Q. Michael, can you just take us back to when and how you first discovered Devlin and what stood out so much that you realized that you wanted to create a path to where he was on your INDYCAR team in the future?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, it was probably, I want to say, three years ago where actually through George and Sean, they brought Devlin and Andy, his father, to meet with us. We hit it off, and Devlin had a lot of experience in Europe driving, and he wanted to come over here and see what it was like in the U.S., and then we laid out the plan from there. The rest is history.
Q. Building off of that, George, can you just fill us in on how kind of you discovered Devlin and what stood out the most for you?
GEORGE STEINBRENNER IV: We watched Dev in Europe. He was running some Formula 3 and some junior series out there, and so we kind of put our eye on him and then we met him when he came over to the U.S. I think it was for the 500, Dev, that we first met. Just sort of got to talking, and we put an interest in Dev’s career, and come 2020 he decided that — he and his group decided that they wanted to try American open wheel racing.
Obviously the plan was to go Indy Lights racing. We thought that was the level that suited him most, running F3 before that, but didn’t have an Indy Lights season so ran Indy Pro, and then took that extra year to go Indy Lights racing after that. The plan was always sort of to take it one step at a time and get in an INDYCAR, and we think this is the time. We think all pieces fit together now, and so we think now is the time to show the world what Dev has got.
Q. George, you have this deal with Michael and Andretti and you’re changing drivers; where do you want to be? What’s your long-term goal?
GEORGE STEINBRENNER IV: So the long-term goal would be to be in INDYCAR as long as possible. That was kind of the goal from the beginning. And obviously with now going on six years with Andretti, the plan at least for the foreseeable future would be to keep that relationship going, as well. I think it’s been advantageous for both parties the whole way.
Yeah, I have no plan of leaving anytime soon, as long as we can keep fielding competitive cars, and I think Michael & Co running the operations for that won’t be a problem in the near future, either.
I’m liking it, so you won’t see me going anywhere.
Q. Do you eventually want to be your own team owner?
GEORGE STEINBRENNER IV: You know, that — if the team ever comes where it sort of makes sense from an operational/financial standpoint, then sure, absolutely it would be awesome. But again, so far there hasn’t really been the opportunity or really the reason to sort of leave what the program is that we’ve had going on.
Sure, yeah, it’s definitely something we’ve thought about, talked about, looked into, but don’t really have a timeline or timetable for when or if it would be a reality.
Q. Devlin, you joined a big team, big-name drivers, and Kyle Kirkwood didn’t get the ride, and I think a lot of people think Kirkwood deserved the ride. What kind of pressure do you think that puts on you?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: Well, at the end of the day the team made a decision, and it’s my job to go out and do the best results possible for next year for the No. 29 Andretti Steinbrenner crew.
As it has been quite — as everybody has seen, the testing has been quite strong, both days in Sebring. I’m excited to go out and show the world what we’ve got for next year in ’22.
Q. What do you think the expectations — what do you think realistic expectations are of you? Do you need to win a race? What do you think people want to see from you?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: For sure there are going to be some races where I think we’re going to be very competitive and at the front, and I’d like to go home with Rookie of the Year and I’d like to be fighting more towards the front, especially by the end of the year. That’s definitely my plan.
Q. Michael, we haven’t heard from you in all this F1 talk; how close was the deal? How serious was it?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, I commented earlier that don’t believe the rumors or what you were hearing about why it didn’t happen. It had nothing to do with financials or anything like that. It was more having to do with control issues, and unfortunately at the 11th hour, control issues changed, and it was a deal that we had to step away from because we couldn’t accept it. I always said that we’re only going to do it if it’s right for us, and in the end it wasn’t right for us.
Q. What does that mean, “control issues”?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Controlling the team.
Q. They wanted you to buy it and not control it?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Basically.
Q. I just want to clarify because nobody knows and everybody has been speculating; what was Colton — what was your vision for Colton in this whole plan?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, obviously if we do ever get a team, he would lead the way for us in terms of wanting to bring an American driver. He’d be the perfect guy to do it. Yeah, I mean, we definitely were going to try to get him into the seat because I believe he could be a competitive driver in Europe. I really do. There’s no reason why he wouldn’t.
Q. There was so much hype in this one-month period of talks or rumors or whatever you want to call it. Do you feel like Formula 1 or Liberty, they wanted to make a deal happen with you? Were they assisting you?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, Liberty, no. I think they would like it, obviously because they’re really pushing the American market, but they weren’t doing anything to help us.
Q. Did you feel, though, that the momentum was there, that people were really behind an American and the Andretti name entering F1?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No question about it. I think it would have been a huge story. It’s a shame it didn’t work out. But I don’t give up.
Q. I just wanted to ask you about last year and Indy Lights and momentum and how much you were able to learn in that year and whether that can kind of carry over to INDYCAR because you work with some really strong teammates and obviously it was an up-and-down year that had good moments and bad moments, so is that something that you can take a lot of learning from for next season?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: Certainly, for sure. I think last year there were some strong points and some not-so-strong points, and I’m just looking forward to going out next year and getting on with the job in the INDYCAR.
As I said, I think the car seems to suit me a bit more, so testing times were quite competitive. I just can’t wait to get next year started already.
Q. Michael, you were kind of addressing Colton there when you were asked about it, and obviously I guess your lineup is complete now, so he’s part of this lineup. Can you talk about how he’s feeling going into the season based on all this kind of speculation that’s been swirling around about what his future might have been and now he’s staying in INDYCAR? How is his motivation and his outlook looking for the season?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Very high expectations. He’s champing at the bit to get out there. The way he finished the season, he could have very well won the last four or five races, and he won two of them.
Yeah, he can’t wait to get out there, and he’s very excited about it. Obviously he was excited about the other opportunity, but he’s also very excited about hopefully going out and winning a championship for us.
Q. Devlin, you mentioned before that your driving style wasn’t quite suited to the Indy Lights car. Is that something that you figured out throughout the season, or is that something that you knew before going in there?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: I’d say more so throughout the season. At certain points, change in conditions, things that you can’t do in the Indy Lights car that you can do in the INDYCAR. But you know, doing our best to work around it and capitalize on a couple issues and just work through it. That’s all behind us now, and looking forward to getting on with it next year.
Q. I wanted to ask where you think your strengths lie as in what types of tracks you expect to show best at next year, also taking into account where Andretti Autosport’s strengths and weaknesses lie currently.
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: For me as a driver personally, I’ve always seemed to be very strong at the higher speed tracks with high-speed corners. Ovals, as well, is something I’ve taken to quite quickly and seem to quite enjoy. Definitely the higher speed stuff I’m looking forward to getting at, especially the ovals, Barber, fast tracks like that, St. Pete, as well. I was quite quick there in Lights, so looking forward to getting back there for INDYCAR.
Q. Michael, I wanted to ask, has your engineering lineup been defined yet across the four cars?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We don’t have it a hundred percent set yet, no.
Q. Do we know who Devlin will have?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We have hopes but we’re not done yet.
Q. Dev, I wanted to know, you have the Kimoa hat on. What’s that relationship and how did it come about?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: So that relationship actually came through someone I’ve been working with for a long time. His name is Anton Stipinovich. I met him in Europe five or six years ago now, and he was an ex-engineer in Formula 1 for Ferrari McLaren and Red Bull, and he had quite a close relationship with Fernando. That’s how the introduction came to be.
Now the relationship has grown over a few years, and now I’m proud to be a Kimoa ambassador.
Q. Are you in Vegas right now? Is that a hotel room you’re sitting in?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: I am in Vegas and I am in a hotel room, yes.
Q. Up bright and early for this announcement?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: Up bright and early for the announcement and then the ROK Cup USA kart race later today.
Q. And you’re not in Vegas, Michael?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I’m at home.
Q. Devlin, you said you were in Vegas for — one of the reasons was the ROK Vegas race. Have you met the Wheldons yet since they’re part of Andretti, too?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: I’ve known the Wheldon kids for a while. I’ve seen them walk around the paddock and you actually reminded me today I was going to go speak to them, so thanks for reminding me.
Q. For your first year in INDYCAR, what are your goals for this incoming season?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: So for sure towards the end of the year we want to be fighting at the front. For sure there are a few tracks I’m looking forward to, and I think we’re going to be very strong at anyway, and to definitely walk away with Rookie of the Year. There’s a lot of strong rookies coming in, as well, over from Europe, so to walk away with that would be first-year agenda complete I’d say in the NTT INDYCAR Series.
Q. So who do you think is going to be the hardest driver for you to compete with?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: You know, in the NTT INDYCAR Series there’s 27 or 28 cars this year. The level is very, very high. I think everybody is hard to beat. It’s one of the most competitive racing series in the world. I don’t think there is another racing series in the world that has the depth of talent like the NTT INDYCAR Series has. I think every weekend it’s going to be a knife fight. It’s going to be very, very tough and very tight.
Q. I want to know, what are the differences that you see from changing from Indy Lights to INDYCAR that you can think about in the future, the need to adapt?
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO: For sure I’d say the braking was one of the biggest things, the carbon brakes. You can seem to attack the brake points much deeper and the car seems to stop a fair bit better. As well with the tire, with the Firestone tire, you can combine much more on the entries, so I’d say that makes the car slightly more forgiving than the Indy Lights car. Physically, as well, it’s a big step up physically, so that was a bit of an eye opener. But the training that I’ve done definitely set me up quite well for jumping into the INDYCAR.
Q. Michael, do you think this operation from many cars around all these past years have changed the approach that you need to do in order to be more competitive as a team? Or do you think it’s just little adjustments that the team needs to do in order to be three cars fighting for the championship?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I’m not sure I understand 100 percent, but I think in INDYCAR, yeah, there’s going to be 28 cars out there instead of normal between 22 and 24, so that makes it that much tougher. You make a little mistake in qualifying, and instead of being 15th, now you’re 21st, something like that.
The more cars you get in there and the more quality of cars you get in there, it makes it that much tougher.
Smaller things become more important. I think it’s not one big thing that’s going to win you a championship, it’s going to be a bunch of things, a bunch of smaller things. We’re talking hundredths of a second to try and improve the car instead of tenths of a second anymore, and those couple hundredths of a second could be the difference between making the fast 12 or being 20th. It’s just crazy how competitive it is.
In the end I think it comes down to details. We have to make sure that we are up on top of the details from pit stops to car preparation to getting the lap in when you need to get it in for qualifying and then obviously making the right calls in the race. There’s a million different things that you have to pay attention to, and the team that does the best job and driver that does the best job of that all year is the one that’s going to end up winning the championship.
Q. What is your focus now for the future now that all the chats of F1 is going — I don’t know if it’s over or how will you feel about the future about this project.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, our eyes are always going to stay open. We’re always going to look for opportunity there, not just there but in other formulas, as well, other types of racing. That’s what we do. We’re in the racing business, and we’re always looking for opportunities to expand.
But when we do expand, we have to make sure that it’s a proper deal that we know we can be competitive because that’s very important for our brand is to be competitive in anything that we do.
Q. Michael, just wanted to ask you real quick, now that Indy Lights has been reclaimed by Roger Penske over at INDYCAR, he has some rather ambitious ideas about what to do with Indy Lights, you being one of the biggest team owners in Indy Lights, if you could assess how you feel about that and also maybe put into perspective the period of time that Andersen Promotions kind of kept the series stable in between it being part of INDYCAR.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, for sure. Andersen, we all have to say thank you to them for keeping it alive all these years for sure. I was happy that we were able to finally talk Roger into looking at Indy Lights and then now taking it ovary think is a huge step for Indy Lights. I think it’s going to really help the growth of the series. He’s going to integrate it much more into the paddock and things like that.
So I think it’s going to be really, really good for Indy Lights, and I see the field is going to be bigger next year and I could see it following years being bigger and bigger yet. I think it’s going to become even that much more important. I think you’re going to see people coming over, as well, because they know that you have a better shot at making it to INDYCARs, the big cars, through Indy Lights than you do going through the ladder system in Europe to get to Formula 1.
I see the future being very, very bright for Indy Lights.
Q. Why did you get directly involved in talking to Roger about getting himself involved in Indy Lights?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Because I believe in it. I believe it’s the foundation for our series. You look at the talent that comes out of it every year. 90 percent of our drivers have come through that. That’s where our future stars are. That’s where the future is of our sport. For me, it was very important that we keep it alive in any way we could.
There was times when we only had like eight or nine cars, but I’ll tell you out of eight or nine cars, five or six of them were very, very tough drivers, and even though it didn’t look like it was a big — great series, it really was because it still trained the guys that were running at the front.
I don’t care, if you have 20 cars out there, you’re still going to have those same five guys fighting it out in the front anyway. I think the series has been a big, big part of the success of INDYCAR. Just look at the talent that came out of it. All these young kids, these future — they’re already stars, and it’s because of Indy Lights. Had we not had that training ground, we might not have that talent in this series.
Q. He remains hesitant to revive the Freedom 100 thinking that that big of an oval with some of that inexperience is a little risky. How do you feel about that?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I guess we can be a little bit different on our views on that. I think he’s looking at the big picture, I guess, and that is protecting the 500, and he’s just always worried that if there’s a bad accident or whatever on Friday it could affect Sunday’s race.
You can’t argue with that, but having said that, I think it was a great race for experience for these drivers, and it always put on a great show. My gosh, everybody was excited for that race to see what was going to happen, and it always came down to inches at the end of the race.
It is a little disappointing for sure not having the race there, but it is what it is.
Q. Michael, I know you addressed Kyle Kirkwood earlier; people are going to say why didn’t you go with Kyle, so I just wanted to get your version officially from you.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yep. Well, the thing with Devlin is not something that just happened overnight. This is something that we’ve been working on. It’s been like a three-year program. It’s just Devlin getting the seat was always in the plan before Kyle was even around.
It’s not like we picked Devlin over Kyle; it was always going to be Devlin.
Yeah, so from that standpoint, that’s why unfortunately at the moment we don’t have a spot for Kyle, but that’s not to say we won’t in the future. We’re definitely going to watch him, and I’m hoping he gets a full-time ride to get experience, and we’ll see how that goes.
The goal is to get him back in our family one day again.
Q. Was it tough to agree to let him go look for something else?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, no question about it. Obviously he was in our plans if the F1 thing came about, so unfortunately that fell through, and then that fell through for his opportunity.
Q. If the F1 thing have gone through, would Kyle have gone to Colton’s seat?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, that was the plan.
Q. Michael, why do you think there aren’t more of those INDYCAR teams up there in Road to Indy besides Andretti and Juncos?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: That is a great question. I’m very disappointed in some of the bigger teams that they don’t support it more. In fact, I always push for them to come up with rules to make — to give incentives to the bigger teams to get into the series because I think that would only be good for the health of INDYCAR in general if there were more of the big teams in Indy Lights. Yeah, I mean, I’m disappointed that we don’t have more support from the other team owners.
Q. Are you kind of thinking about going down to USF and Indy Pro 2000?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Probably not. We did that at one time, but we have some deals with some of the other owners, and so we work together with them on bringing some of these young kids up where we’ll put them through their program and then eventually get them into our Indy Lights program and INDYCAR. That’s pretty much the way we have it, but we have some good partners in the lower formulas that we work with to help get the talent through.
Q. Michael, you’ve long been critical of other team owners who do not participate in Lights. Now that Roger has reclaimed the series, did you have any talks with him about getting other team owners involved?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I didn’t have any direct conversation with him about it, but I may. Unfortunately I would love to see him be one of the teams to do it. But I don’t know, for some reason Roger never really looked at it to do it. I don’t know why. He does Xfinity, and then he does Cup, so why don’t you do that in INDYCAR, as well. I don’t know what his reasons are. To me, I would love to see him do it because I’m sure if he did it then it would probably draw more of the other teams to do it.
Q. He doesn’t do it because he lets you pay to develop everyone so he can sign the drivers.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, he’s probably a lot smarter than we are, yeah.
Q. Do you have any idea or hopes of where you want Indy Lights to go now under him?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think, yeah, I want to see it be a major support of the INDYCAR Series. I’d like to see us race at most of the races that the INDYCARs do. I’m sure we probably won’t be at all of them. I’d like to see a good five-year plan with it to try to control the costs. I think that’s always a big thing is how do we control the costs, and I think that’s something that hopefully Jay — Jay has been good at that, and hopefully with him getting more involved, that might help for the future, as well. Things like that.
But I really believe that with this now being under the INDYCAR umbrella again, I think it’s going to draw a lot more people, a lot more drivers that are coming up through that that are going to look at it instead of going, say, to Formula 2. I think they’re going to look at Indy Lights a lot harder.
Q. Michael, with Formula 1’s success with the “Drive to Survive” Netflix series, could there be something similar for INDYCAR in the future? And if so, what do you think that would look like?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I have no idea. I’m hearing rumors about it. I don’t know.
I guess it could be good. I just don’t want it to be trying to do the same thing. Then I don’t know if it’ll have the same effect.
I think the politics and the things — the stories are a little different in INDYCAR than they are in — I think there’s a little more drama in F1 because there’s a lot more back stabbing and things like that. I think over here there’s a lot more camaraderie and it’s more about the racing on the racetrack than the politics off the racetrack.
I’m not sure it would have the same interest, but maybe if they can come up with a different angle it would be good. But I have no idea about anything about if it’s being talked about. Just what you read is what I read.
Q. Like with INDYCAR itself, there’s so many great personalities in terms of even the team owners and the drivers. There has to be some form of formula there for success, right?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think so, but again, I think it’s about — I think what makes those stories interesting in F1 is everybody hates each other and everybody is trying to — has their knives out to stab each other in the back. You don’t really have that as much in INDYCAR, so you don’t have that same type of ugly drama.
Q. Remember, Michael, you wanted to be a part of that drama?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I’ll be a part of it — you mean the other drama? I’ve been sharpening my knives.
DAVE FURST: Again, congratulations to Devlin DeFrancesco. Michael and George, thank you very much, and thanks to everyone else for hopping on Zoom here this morning. Everybody have a great day today. Thank you.