In 1994, 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 Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a single day.
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 Wednesday night’s inaugural John Andretti Memorial Double benefiting Race 4 Riley on June 9 at Circle City Raceway in Indianapolis.
The event features the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series and the Midwest Sprint Car Series.
Jarett Andretti will drive the RMS Racing No. 51 in the USAC midget portion of the Circle City program, which serves as round five of USAC 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 Andretti 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 Championship entry to prepare for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, where he will team with cousin, Marco Andretti, and Oliver Askew for the event later this month at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Int’l.
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 Series event before and, despite his dirt roots, Jarett has only competed in a dirt midget just once before. That excursion came a month ago in a USAC regional midget event at Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway, where he finished fourth.
While Jarett’s USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series career consists of 129 feature starts and 2014 rookie-of-the-year honors, his USAC National Midget Series 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 the 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,’” said Jarett Andretti. “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.”
John Andretti, whose racing career took him to a vast variety of disciplines from USAC to Indy cars, NASCAR, sports cars and even Top Fuel dragsters, passed away Jan. 30, 2020, from colon cancer. He was 56.
In recent years, John could be found in the pit area on the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series and USAC Silver Crown Series trails with 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. Like his father, 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 noted. “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.”