By Richie Murray
Indianapolis, Indiana (June 8, 2021)………Twenty-seven years ago, John Andretti became the first to complete what came to be known as “The Double,” competing in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in a single day in May of 1994.
Twenty-seven years later, John’s son, Jarett Andretti, will take part in another “double,” honoring his father’s life and memory by competing in this Wednesday night’s inaugural John Andretti Memorial “Double” benefitting Race 4 Riley on June 9 at Circle City Raceway in Indianapolis featuring the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship and the Midwest Sprint Car Series.
Jarett Andretti will drive the RMS Racing #51 in the USAC Midget portion of the program at Circle City, round five out of eight during the 17th annual edition of Indiana Midget Week.
“One of the defining moments of my dad’s career was doing the double and starting that, and it means a lot to know that people had that much respect for dad and have that much respect to want to continue to help be part of his legacy after he’s gone,” Jarett said. “It’s great to be a part of this and it’s great to have another dirt track in Indiana, especially on the east side. We’ve kind of got them everywhere else. To have a track close to Indy is very beneficial; everyone always needs more places to race. They’re not popping up; they only seem to be going away. So, to have somebody pop one up is pretty awesome.”
On Monday and Tuesday, Jarett was testing a IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car to prepare for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of Watkins Glen where he will team with cousin, Marco Andretti, and Oliver Askew for the event later this month.
The scenery will be somewhat familiar to Jarett on Wednesday, but not exactly. The brand-new Circle City Raceway has never hosted a USAC National Midget event before, and despite his dirt roots, Jarett has only competed in a dirt midget just once before, one month ago, in a USAC Regional Midget event at Gas City I-69 Speedway where he finished a solid 4th.
While Jarett’s USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car career consists of 129 feature starts and 2014 Rookie of the Year honors, his USAC National Midget experience includes just one start, in 2012 at Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway when the track was still paved, finishing 11th for RW Motorsports. In 2011, he won his heat race at the Indianapolis Speedrome, but rain came and washed out the night just as the field was lining up for the feature.
Jarett will get his first taste of USAC National dirt midget racing as a teammate to Thomas Meseraull and Justin Grant. Meseraull won the Indiana Midget Week opener at Paragon Speedway last Thursday and Grant, the defending USAC Silver Crown champion, is fourth in IMW standings coming in, making it a star-studded team which Jarett is excited to be a part of.
“I called (RMS Racing owner) Dave Estep and he said, ‘yeah, that’ll be great, come on out and we’ll put you in a car for the night.’ They have good cars, good motors, and they’ve won this week already. I really appreciate them running me at Gas City as well. It’s all pretty new to me, but I’ve got great teammates in Meseraull and Grant that can help me as much as they can.
At Gas City, I learned a tremendous amount,” Jarett continued. “A midget races pretty different than a sprint car, even though it’s just a smaller version of a it. Getting to race around Meseraull, (Emerson) Axsom and (Shane) Cottle helped me a lot in learning ways to pick up time and learning where you lose time as well. As similar as they look, they race totally different. Learning how to race it was the biggest gain for me, and those couple of notes I took from that night at Gas City can, hopefully, pay off on Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, John Andretti, whose racing career took him to a vast variety of disciplines from USAC to Indy Car to NASCAR, Sports Cars and even Top Fuel Dragsters, passed away January 30, 2020, at the age of 56, from colon cancer.
John, son of Aldo, nephew of Mario Andretti and first cousin to Michael and Jeff Andretti, had early success by capturing the 1983 USAC Regional Midget championship at the Indianapolis Speedrome on the strength of three victories. He collected another score at the Speedrome the following year in 1984.
In 1985, John broke through for a USAC National victory in a midget at Paragon (Ind.) Speedway for car owner Rollie Helmling and ended the season third in the final standings behind only Mel Kenyon and Rich Vogler.
In 1989, he posted a victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona alongside co-drivers Bob Wollek and Derek Bell, then went on to make 12 Indianapolis 500 starts and won the 1991 CART season opener at Surfer’s Paradise in Australia. Making the transition to stock cars, John won twice with the NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona, Fla. in 1997 and at Martinsville, Va. in 1999.
In recent years, John could be found in the pit area on the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car and Silver Crown trail with his son, Jarett, as the driver. Jarett has and will continue the legacy of his father’s footprint in racing a wide variety of cars and doing it with a cause. And, like his dad, Jarett’s roots lie on the dirt tracks in sprint cars and midgets, and he hasn’t forgotten them.
“Dad really enjoyed his time driving midgets and sprint cars here in Indiana and it really gave him the platform to get a prototype and Indy Car ride,” Jarett stated. “Wednesday’s event ties in the Race 4 Riley, which was very near and dear to dad and everybody in central Indiana, and I’m really excited about having those pieces come together and making this a reality.”
Wednesday’s Indiana Midget Week round at Circle City will feature the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship & the Midwest Sprint Car Series.
You can save $5 with purchase of advance tickets at www.TracPass.com. Tickets and pit passes will also be sold at the gate where adult general admission tickets are $30 while kids aged 12 and under are free. Pit passes are $35.
Pits open at 3pm EDT with grandstands opening at 5pm, drivers meeting at 5:30pm and hot laps at 6pm
Circle City Raceway is located at 7300 East Troy Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46239.
Every Indiana Midget Week event will be streamed LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3dgONXz.