Michael Andretti Steals Away Quietly

Michael Andretti?s dream of one day winning the Indianapolis 500 ended on Sunday after 16 attempts to win The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. After a comeback effort in 2006 and 2007, he had to settle for third and 13th places, respectively. So he decided to turn off the motor for good. Without fanfare, the quiet spoken driver announced he was retiring from active competition.

His retirement announcement was brief and low key and it got sidetracked in the festivities around race winner Dario Franchitti, who drives for the Andretti Green Racing team. ?I guess I will have to settle for 15 wins as an owner,? Andretti said afterward. His team won with Dan Wheldon two years ago, giving him two as an owner.

Andretti said his involvement with team ownership duties has expanded and he realized he couldn?t do justice to both duties. ?Halfway through the month (of May), I was going crazy thinking I can?t continue to do this (drive). I have gotten much more involved with my owner duties, and I should have been doing more stuff but there wasn?t enough time. I was perfectly content and happy to be retired, and I will be happy and content in the owner?s role.?

The 45-year old driver said he didn?t think about retirement during the race. ?I was focused on my job as driver. By the time people started asking me about my plans after the race, I had made up my mind but I didn?t want to make a big deal out of it.?

Andretti said he came back with a purpose ? to capture the elusive victory at Indianapolis. In his 16 races, he has a second place in 1991, two third places and a fourth, but no victory. One statistic that bugs him is that he has led more laps, 431, without a win than any other driver. ?During the parade, they kept repeating that statistic at every block. Man, I would like to get rid of that number.?

Asked what his father, Mario Andretti, thought about his retirement, his son didn?t seem to be sure. ?If he put me in his shoes, he would have me driving until I was 50 (years of age), but I am a different person.

Reflecting on his races at Indianapolis, Andretti said, ?I don?t have a whole lot of good memories as a driver. My most memorable race may have been in my rookie season (1984). Things were going my way then.?

Andretti believes the Indianapolis 500 has not lost is charm or its appeal. ?The races in the last few years have been nail-biters,? he said. ?There are still a lot of fans that save their money to come to Indianapolis, as they love and can feel the fierceness of the competition. They are feeling it, and it is going through their veins when they are here. They know all of us are on the edge of the cliff, which makes this race so cool. With all of the competition for the sports dollar, I think the Indianapolis 500 is still a great race.?

Race drivers frequently retire but once the roar of the engines are heard, they can?t stay away. Whether Michael Andretti has finished with his racing days at Indianapolis will not be known for another year, but in the meantime, he is thrilled to be a winning owner and is looking forward to more trips to victory lane. ?It is all about winning, and that?s why we had five cars in the ?500,?? the Pennsylvania native said with conviction.

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