Owning the course

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:29 PM ET

Michael Andretti has won the Honda Indy Toronto an astounding seven times.

To put that feat into perspective the next three multiple winners combined — that would be Paul Tracy, Al Unser Jr. and Dario Franchitti with two each — have less wins than Andretti on Toronto’s 2.82-km temporary street course.

Better than dad

So dominant were his performances that Toronto is the only place on the planet where his legendary father Mario Andretti must play second fiddle in the family band.

Andretti has won at Exhibition Place in every way imaginable.

In his last time on the track — in 2001 — he even won from dead last. And that was after his Team Kool Green Toyota powered Lola had stalled and wouldn’t restart as the parade lap was nearing the starting line.

Andretti got the car re-started with the help of track workers and worked his way through the field to win — astonishing not only every other driver on the grid that day, but himself as well.

“If anyone had told me before the race that I could have won from that position on that day, I would have laughed it off as ridiculous,” he said.

But there was always something about the Toronto street course that made it look easy for Andretti. It is something, however, that rather than ever figuring it out, he just let happen.

“I wish I could have figured out what it was that I was doing in Toronto because I would have done it at every track where we raced,” Andretti said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“Part of it, I think, is because we always, right from the very first season, had great fan support. Toronto has a large Italian community and they were always there at the track cheering us on.”

Nine years after that final win in 2001, Andretti is back in Toronto looking for his first victory as owner of Andretti Autosport that will field four cars, one each for Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan, his own son Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay on Sunday.

It is the second appearance for the Andretti group here, but the first with Andretti as sole team owner.

In the off-season Andretti sold his interest in Andretti-Green Promotions to his partners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree in return for them relinquishing their ownership in the racing team.

The results, as they say of good trades in professional sports, were good for both sides

“We feel we have improved a lot over last season,” Andretti said. “The change has allowed me to focus 100% on the race team.”

He said that in the highly competitive world of IndyCar racing, split second decisions are needed to get to and stay at the top of the game.

And that, Andretti admitted, wasn’t happening when the team was being run by three equal partners.

“One of the problems was that the team was never able to get a decision without three people piping in with their opinion of what should or should not be done,” he said.

That kind of friction led to divisions on the team that were costing positions on the race track.

“Now when a decision has to be made I make it,” Andretti said. “There’s no waiting around for two other opinions.”

With four teams under the Andretti Autosport umbrella — the largest in the IZOD IndyCar series — there has been criticism that resources might be getting stretched too thin.

Andretti emphatically denies that is the case

“People can say what they want,” he said. “We have shown that we can run up to five cars. We have the resources and the sponsorships to pull it off.”

The recent results appear to back Andretti’s claim.

Slow start

After a slow start Patrick — clearly the star of the group — has had some solid finishes of late. And Marco Andretti is having his best season.

Kanaan, the senior member of the team, won the next to last race at Iowa and had a good finish at Watkins Glen after his worst qualifying effort there.

A win on Sunday in Toronto, however, would top them all.


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