Season Preview: Andretti Green Racing
March 17, 2008 | 2:33 P.M. EST
The team with 32 wins and three championships since 2003, including nine wins and the title in 2007, returns with a four-car effort in the IndyCar Series. Tony Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, returns as the veteran of the group while fourth-year driver Danica Patrick and third-year driver Marco Andretti also will act as mentors to rookie Hideki Mutoh.
Kanaan, driving the Team 7-Eleven entry, has more IndyCar Series starts, 81, than his three teammates combined, 79.
"They say that (I'm the senior guy), but then I get my butt kicked by Danica and Marco and Mutoh and then I won't be the guy anymore," Kanaan said. "I have a bigger responsibility, but nothing has changed for me inside the team. I've always had that 'team leader' role. If you think about it, every year for the last three years I've had a new teammate. It won't be any different than when Marco got in and when Danica got in, and now when Hideki comes in.
"There's only one goal in racing – it's win. We go through the preseason and we're always asked the same questions, and we always give the same answers because we're here to win. We're here to win the championship, we're here to win Indianapolis, we're here to win as many races as we can."
Looking for her first win in 2008 is Patrick, who finished a career-best seventh overall last year and who recorded a career-best race finish of second at Belle Isle.
"This is the most excited I've been going into a season, most comfortable I've felt," Patrick said. "This year I feel like excitement is sort of maybe number one to nervousness - where normally every other year I was more nervous than anything.
"I really feel like I'm becoming some sort of an old person in racing. This is my fourth year, so I'm going into this one instead of some of the others saying, 'Look, if I want a shot at winning championships, everything, you've got to get out of the box fast.' You have to go hard early and get some good results in. You have to finish because those DNFs at the beginning of the season will come back to haunt you later."
Andretti, the son of team co-owner Michael Andretti, is looking to rebound from a difficult sophomore season when he recorded six top-10 finishes.
"The first approach is you forget about last year," said Andretti, who became the youngest winner of a major open-wheel race when he won at Infineon in 2006. "Everything that happened, a lot of it was out of my hands – some of it being my mistake, but it was bad luck. That's one aspect of the game that you can't control, so you have to forget about that part of it and just go in knowing that it's going to be a challenge. It's not going to be easy. When you prevail through your tough days, that's what's going to win you the championship, not the easy days. Go in with the mentality of trying to maximize the car's performance and enjoy yourself, because as drivers that's when you do your best work.
"I can tell you Marco Andretti is on a mission this year. I'm going for a championship. That's what we're racing for. I think it's realistic, I really do. Not with the mentality of 'I've got to win every race,' but that would be the approach. I think it's possible. And for me, there's one thing left to do at Indy, so I have very high expectations for this year. I'm ready to go. I've been ready to go since Chicago last year to try and redeem myself and prove some things to some people."
The newcomer to the team is Mutoh, who finished eighth in his IndyCar Series debut at Chicagoland last season following a runner-up campaign in the Indy Pro Series.
"This is a championship-winning team, and the No. 27 is the champion number. That means a lot to me, and for the Japanese and for Honda," Mutoh said. "Everybody knows how good Andretti Green Racing is. Tony won the championship, and Marco has won. Danica has promise to win a race, so those are very good teammates to have. I can learn a lot from them. I have no pressure at all. I'm more motivated than last year for sure. I'm really looking forward to the first race."
Andretti Green Racing Capsule
Car Numbers: 7 (Patrick); 11 (Kanaan); 26 (Andretti); 27 (Mutoh)
Drivers: Marco Andretti, 21, Nazareth, Pa.; Tony Kanaan, 33, Salvador de Bahia, Brazil; Hideki Mutoh, 25, Tokyo; Danica Patrick, 25, Roscoe, Ill.
Team Managers: Kyle Moyer (7), George Klotz (11), Ziggy Harcus (26), Kim Green (27)
Chief Engineers: Martin Pare (7), Eric Cowdin (11), Eddie Jones (26), Ray Gosselin (27)
Chief Mechanics: Dave Sharpley (7), Jeff Simon (11), Jeff Grahn (26), Josh Freund (27)
Top 5: 35
Top 10: 46
Laps Led: 1,127
Best Start: 1st (Kansas, Richmond, Michigan, Kentucky, Infineon, Chicagoland)
Best Finish: 1st (Motegi, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Iowa, Richmond, Michigan, Kentucky, Belle Isle, Chicagoland)
Running at Finish: 53
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