Daytona Beach, Fla. ( Associated Press) — Jarrett Andretti made his own way into motorsports with his father, where they both started out in sprint cars with an aspiration to build a bigger program that they could take to the next level.
John Andretti and his son eventually turned their attention to sports cars and worked out a program that would someday include the Rolex 24 racing in Daytona. They got serious about the effort in 2019 but it took three years to achieve their dream.
Jarett Andretti started from pole in the LMP3 class on Saturday and held the lead for nearly three hours before handing the car to his teammate. It marked the debut of Andretti Autosport in North America’s most prestigious race; Mario Andretti won the race in 1972, Michael Andretti and John Andretti entered it three times, and Marco Andretti ran it once, but never for the nominated family team.
However, the feat was too sweet for Jarrett Andretti. On Sunday, the tricolor will be unfurled on the completion of two years of his father’s death anniversary. John Andretti died of colon cancer in 2020 at the age of 56.
“This is what dad and I started in our final year, it was like ‘Let’s go sports car racing,'” Andretti told the Associated Press. “There’s a lot of my dad’s fingerprints on it.”
He credits Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti and his late father’s first cousin, for helping Jarrett move the program into IMSA’s top series. The team debuted in the Michelin Pilot Challenge last year before moving up to the WeatherTech Series in the middle of the season.
And it was Michael Andretti, as well as Jarrett’s mother, Nancy, who talked him into continuing his sprint car career to focus on the IMSA effort.
“He was like ‘Okay, you’re going to go to WeatherTech and you’re going to run these races,’ Michael is like ‘You can’t go anywhere before the weekend and get hurt in the sprint car and not race. Ready for. If I’m going to help you, I want to make sure you’re here and focused,'” Jarrett Andretti said.
When his debut finally took place, Mario Andretti was in Daytona on Saturday to watch as a grand marshal. Mario Andretti is the twin brother of Jarrett’s late grandfather, Aldo.
“It meant a lot to the family. With my twin brother, Aldo, we started this mess and as it turns out there are four drivers on each side of the family and now we are on the third generation at both ends. ,” Mario Andretti told the Associated Press. “John trained Jarrett right through sprint cars and sports cars and Michael is part of the structure of the team. We love it, it’s our life, this sport has been our life.”
After his stint, Jarrett Andretti said he would let Mario drive the car anytime and was confident the 81-year-old could successfully complete a solid three-hour stint. Mario Andretti still drives an IndyCar two-seater in every race.
“He’s so fit and he’s just mentally sharp, and when you’re mentally sharp, it doesn’t matter to the physicality,” Jarrett Andretti said. “He still drives a two-seater, so he can drive for me whenever he wants.”
Ford Performance will return to top-level GT racing in 2024 with a factory-backed Mustang, the sports car that created the pony car segment.
Ford withdrew IMSA sports car competition after the 2019 season, but announced at Daytona International Speedway that it would return to the GTD Pro Class with a two-car factory effort run by Multimatic Motorsports. Ford had considered entering the top category of sports car racing – it would be called the LMDH from next season – but instead opted to remain in the production-based category.
The street version of the Mustang GT3 will also be available for purchase by the customers.
Joy Hand, who was named road course driver for Rick Ware Racing in a Ford-backed car at NASCAR earlier this week, will help develop the Mustang GT3. Hand was part of the Ford lineup that won Le Mans in 2016.
Race drivers were not announced.
“As much as I love competing and winning on the track, I also enjoy being part of the development of new race vehicles like this Mustang,” said Hand. “We’ve done a lot of testing with the Ford GT program, so it would be great to work again with a lot of people at Ford and Multimatic as we prepare this car for competition.”
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