Originally created 07/24/02

Andretti buys racing team, considering IRL switch



INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Andretti has watched as many of CART's high-profile owners have left for the rival Indy Racing League.

Andretti isn't ready to leave for the IRL and provide another blow to CART, but he is facing that possibility.

Andretti, the winningest driver in CART history, is buying his own racing team but says his sponsorship will decide which of the rival open-wheel series he will compete in next year.

Team Green owner Barry Green said Tuesday he was selling the team to his brother and Andretti, CART's career leader with 42 victories.

Andretti will be the team's majority owner and chief executive, with Barry Green remaining as a consultant and minority partner. The new team will be known as Andretti Green Racing, effective Dec. 1.

Andretti said he did not know whether the team might switch next season to the rival IRL series.

"I don't have anything solid," Andretti said. "It is going to come down to the sponsors. But I would like to do Indianapolis. That is a race I really want."

Cigarette brand Kool has been Team Green's major sponsor since 1998 and Motorola has been Andretti's top sponsor the past two years.

"We don't have a signed sponsor," Andretti said. "We're going on the hope that what we're buying is going to sell itself. They've given us an indication that they're happy."

Andretti, 39, holds the record for leading the most laps in the Indianapolis 500 without a victory. His best finishes in 13 Indy starts are a second in 1991 and a third in 2001.

Last year's Indy 500 was Andretti's first since 1995, the year before the CART-IRL split.

Green, whose team won the 1995 Indy 500 and CART title with Jacques Villeneuve, currently fields cars for Andretti, Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti on the CART circuit.

Green said he hoped Tracy and Franchitti would stay with the team, but that no decisions had been made. The team's headquarters will remain in Indianapolis.

Green has battled with IRL officials since they disallowed Tracy's pass of Helio Castroneves on the next-to-last lap of this year's Indy 500. Green has maintained that Tracy completed the pass before a caution period was declared because of an accident behind the leaders.

Green said the ruling had nothing to do with the decision to sell, but had not forgotten the disappointment.

"I'm very bitter over the 500," he said.

A decision by Andretti to defect from CART would be a serious blow to the struggling series. Andretti is likely the best-known driver in open-wheel racing, which has few American stars.

Andretti said this was a critical time for CART, still reeling from other high-profile defections. Roger Penske, CART's most successful owner, switched his team, with drivers Castroneves and two-time CART champion Gil de Ferran, to the IRL this season largely because his Marlboro wanted be at the 500.

Green founded his team with Gerry Forsythe in 1994 and has 19 CART victories as an owner. He also was Al Unser Jr.'s team manager when Unser won the CART crown in 1990 and the 1992 Indy 500.

Andretti said he decided to become an owner because he wanted to remain active in racing when his racing career was finished. He approached Green toward the end of last season about buying the team and a deal was completed in April at Long Beach.

Green said the opportunity to keep the business in the family and still remain involved in the operation was too good to pass up.

Andretti hopes to build on what Green started.

"I think there is still a good future," he said. "There's always going to be room for open-wheel racing in this country and hopefully we're going to be able to help make it grow."