Indianapolis — The handsome young man with the easy smile and famous last name had just turned his first laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he grabbed a cellphone to call his father, who was tethered to an IV to receive the medication he hopes will save his life.
“What was it like?” John Andretti asked, upon picking up the phone.
“Awesome,” Jarett Andretti said. “Just awesome.”
It was the simplest of exchanges coming at the most difficult and complex of times.
The 26-year-old Andretti is making his racing debut at the hallowed speedway today when the lower-tier Indy Lights series runs the Freedom 100 on Carb Day ahead of the Indianapolis 500.
He will become the seventh Andretti to race at the track, and he’ll be doing it 50 years after his great uncle Mario captured the family’s only victory in the Indy 500.
He also will be taking the green flag while his father, who started 12 times in the Indianapolis 500, undergoes an aggressive clinical trial to treat a return of his colon cancer.
“It’s going to be emotional,” Jarett Andretti said. “It will mean a lot to our whole family.”
That includes his uncle, Adam, and cousins Jeff and Marco, who have all taken the green flag at Indy.
His grandfather, Aldo, tested a car there but never competed in a race – he retired early after a bad crash in 1969.
John’s brother, Michael, has been coming to the great gray speedway his whole life, first as a driver and now as the leader of the Andretti Autosport team.
It will be Michael, who is also Jarett’s godfather, who will field an Indy Lights car for him.
“The history of our family speaks for itself and what Indianapolis means to us,” John Andretti told The Associated Press. “To have another Andretti participate, it’s very gratifying.
“It’s the place that you go to make your mark,” he said, while sitting patiently through his latest treatment. “Of course, there’s good and bad ways to make a mark there. We’ve all done both. But it’s the place you go to be challenged, and this is a big challenge for Jarett.”
Drummond grand marshal
Pistons center Andre Drummond will be the grand marshal for the Saturday, June 1 IndyCar race at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle.
Drummond, the NBA rebounding leader this past season, will give the drivers the command to start their engines for the 3:30 p.m. race and will ride in the pace car.
“Detroit is my adopted hometown and I love cars and I love the Motor City,” Drummond said.
The second IndyCar race of the Detroit Grand Prix will take place on Sunday, June 2, also at 3:30 p.m.
Wolff tribute to Lauda
Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said losing his friend Niki Lauda left him feeling crushed and cast a “huge black cloud” of sadness over Formula One.
“I feel we have lost what was the heart and soul,” Wolff said Thursday at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Lauda died on Monday at the age of 70, less than one year after a lung transplant.