Racers come to sportscars from a myriad of routes. Some come from various forms of club racing. Some start their way up the open-wheel single-seater ladder before making the switch. When they do, those open-wheelers are usually the ones that race on pavement. Jarett Andretti came from open-wheel cars – but the kind that lift the inside-front wheel coming out of a corner and spit dirt out the back.
“I was running sprint cars and I still run sprint cars, but I really wanted to go road racing because I think that’s something I needed to improve on,” says the driver of the Nos. 18 and 36 Andretti Autosport/Window World McLaren 570Ss in GT4 America Sprint and SprintX competition.
“You have to be a well-rounded driver to be extremely good. I started looking at the GT4 stuff. I happened to be in the shop one day when [Military Motorsports Chairman] David Tilton walked in. A variety of people walk through Andretti Autosport; I don’t have any idea who anybody is, but I tell everybody what I want to do – ‘Hey, I want to go sportscar racing.’ And he says, ‘As a matter of fact, I have a sportscar team. I have this new TCR, do you want to come in and drive for me?’ That’s how the TCR thing got started.”
Andretti raced the new TCR class in Touring Car last year, and used it as a stepping-stone to GT4. He’s glad he got the front-wheel-drive experience. And he continues to branch out – in addition to sprint cars and GT4, he also raced the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Jarett Andretti is the son of John Andretti and grandson of Aldo, Mario’s twin brother. Michael Andretti, the founder of Andretti Autosport, is his first cousin once removed and his godfather. Jarett’s grandfather, and his grandfather’s brother, were racing in an age when a racer was a racer – Indy cars, F1, stock cars, sports cars… a racecar was a racecar. And so Jarett seems to be taking a similar path. He’s looking to get some experience in an LMP3 car soon to get a little taste of prototypes as well. In the meantime, he’s got plenty of GT4 racing to do, including SprintX at Portland International Raceway this weekend. It’s one of a handful of GT4 weekends this season where he will only have two races instead of four. One gets the impression, though, that he’s going to miss the more hectic schedule.
“I did five TCR weekends last year, now I’m going against GT4 guys that do this for a living and are factory guys,” he says.
“So I wanted to do as much racing as I could because most of these tracks I haven’t been to before. It was really nice at [Canadian Tire Motorsports Park] to run the SprintX race on Friday and then run the Sprint race on Saturday morning. I was fresh, but had just come off doing a 30-minute stint in SprintX. You get a lot of experience and you can apply stuff you learn in the SprintX car to the Sprint car and vice-versa. It’s hectic; it’s hard on the guys because of the schedule sometimes. Usually you are the first race of the day and then the last race of the day. But I think it’s really beneficial for the performance aspect of the team. And it makes sense that you are already driving a truck and trailer with a car, you might as well put another car in if you’ve got another class running in the same series.”
One of the challenges is the practice, and sometimes qualifying, session is combined, with SprintX and Sprint on the track at the same time That makes driver change practice tough, and it means that his co-drivers – Karl Thomson and Colin Mullan have both filled that role this season – are taking care of some of the mundane tasks such as making sure the pit lane speed limiters work. But the team is also getting double data, and Andretti has the opportunity to hop straight out of one car and into the other to see if there are differences.
Andretti is still looking for his first victory in GT4 America. He’s come close – he was one of several to experience punctures at VIR, while he was leading a Sprint race. Then he had a race at CTMP where he was fighting for the lead.
“I think we’ve been running pretty good,” he says. “It’s been steady improvement since COTA and St. Pete. The guys we’re battling with are experienced pros – Ian James, Spencer Pumpelly, Michael Cooper, Gar Robinson, Shane Lewis… they’re good guys who have won big races, and have done this for a long time.
“You look around at who we are racing with, and I’m pretty proud of how the year has gone. It’s a new team as well. It’s not easy to take a rookie driver into a series and go to street courses and a lot of places we’ve never been along with guys that have never raced in a series either. Robin [team manger Robin Pemberton] has been involved in NASCAR. My engineer [ Graham Quinn] is really a rally engineer. So we’ve all kind of banded together, and the mechanics are starting to come together. I think holistically, you look at it all, and I am pretty proud of what we have been able to accomplish this year.”
Andretti’s next opportunity for a win comes this weekend at Portland International Raceway, where GT4 SprintX, along with Touring Car America, is the headliner for the annual Rose Cup Races. All SprintX races will be streamed live on gt4-america.com and via audio simulcast on SiriusXM satellite radio Ch. 383 (983 on the app). Race 1 is Saturday at 5:15 EDT and Race 2 is Sunday at 4:55 EDT. CBS Sports Network coverage for SprintX races at Portland airs July 28 at 4 pm EDT.