Andrettis Ticket To Ride
July 29, 2003 | 5:10 P.M. EST
So after finishing 33rd in the Pennsylvania 500 on Sunday, July 27 at Pocono Raceway, Andretti showed up at the IMS Ticket Office on Monday morning, July 28 and purchased six tickets in the Turn 3 stands where he already had bought tickets earlier. The Brickyard 400 is a home race for Andretti, as he grew up in Indianapolis and went to high school only a few blocks from the track.
"I have a bunch of family, and everybody was like, ‘We’re not sure we want to go to the Brickyard if you aren’t going to be there," said Andretti, son of 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti’s twin brother, Aldo.
"Everybody held back, and now it’s time to go. And I was really fortunate that tickets were available. You can’t always get them. They were the price of gold so I was really fortunate. I didn’t have to go out to a street corner and beg. I could come in here to a nice air-conditioned office and buy them."
Brickyard 400 tickets are available in the main lobby of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Administration Building at the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road in Indianapolis. Tickets also are available online at www.imstix.com and via phone at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.
It did appear in June that Andretti would miss his first Brickyard 400 after starting the first nine editions of the race, with a best finish of seventh in 1998. He was let go by Petty Enterprises, for which he drove the famed No. 43 for five seasons.
Then in early July, Andretti received a call from DEI inviting him to Indianapolis to test the No. 81 Kraft 100th Anniversary Chevrolet. He turned a 181-mph lap and was asked back to drive the car in the Brickyard 400.
"Oh, it’s going to be good," Andretti said about driving as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s teammate.
"Coming to the Brickyard, you want not only an opportunity to participate but an opportunity to race well. Really, the opportunities I had to come here were good. And with DEI, they obviously have a really strong program going. They race awfully well."
The test also led to a two-race ride in the No. 0 NetZero Hi Speed Pontiac with Haas CNC Racing. He rewarded them with a fifth-place start at Pocono.
"The teams work differently, which gives you a different feel in the car," he said about driving for three different teams in recent weeks.
"I really feel funny because I’m jumping from team to team. I’m getting right into their inner secrets. Then I go to the next team, and they have to trust me that I’m not taking information to competitors. It makes me feel good that they trust me like that.
"It makes me feel good that I get such great opportunities, and I hope to make the most of them. It could all blow up in your face. But I feel really good about where we’re going, what we’re doing."
Andretti certainly wasn’t looking forward to sitting in the stands for this race. The Speedway has been a part of his life since he was little. In 1991 and 1992, he joined Uncle Mario and cousins Michael and Jeff in the Indianapolis 500 starting lineup.
He said the last time he remembers sitting in the stands was sometime in the 1970s.
"We were illegally jumping the fence to get in the pits and things like that," he said. "We always sat in the Tower Terrace, which I couldn’t quite understand. As short as we are (he’s 5-foot-5) everybody stood up, nobody ever sat down. We had to stand on the seats. Made for a long day when you’re young."
Andretti said he always looks for his group in the stands when the drivers take the ceremonial lap around the track before the start of the Brickyard. He said he could pick them out because they all wore his team cap and were standing up cheering.
"This time I don’t know what it’ll be," he said about the cap they’ll wear. "They’ll probably have an ‘8’ hat (Earnhardt Jr.’s car number) on, I guess, because there probably isn’t John Andretti stuff right now. ‘8’ is OK, since it’s my boss. My boss is younger than me (26 to 40), so I guess that’s pretty typical in America now."