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Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Andretti to test-run injured Kanaan's car

By Robin Miller
Special to ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Andretti still hasn't announced who will replace Dario Franchitti next month at the Indianapolis 500. But he has a backup replacement plan for his other injured driver.

He's bringing in the old man.

Mario Andretti, arguably the most versatile racer of all time, will step out of the past and into Tony Kanaan's Dallara/Honda for testing Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kanaan, who suffered a broken left arm earlier this month in Japan, might not be able to practice May 4 or later qualify for the Indy 500. Dr. Terry Trammell did say Tuesday that Kanaan should be well enough to run the race May 25.

The Andrettis already have agreed to Mario qualifying the car for Kanaan if Kanaan is unable to. It is unlikely -- even if Mario qualifies and the 28-year-old Brazilian can't run the race -- that Mario would run at Indy.

"Michael asked me if I wanted to give it a try and I said sure, so tomorrow we're going to go out and see if I can become part of this equation," the 63-year-old legend said Tuesday after undergoing a physical and receiving his Indy Racing League license.

"I think the only reason he asked me was because he knew I'd do it for free, but I'm looking forward to seeing what it feels like."

The patriarch of the Andretti family, who led 556 laps at Indy but only scored the 1969 championship, has not competed at the Speedway since 1994, the year he retired from championship car racing after a 30-year career.

But Andretti did compete at LeMans until 2000 and said he doesn't believe he would be in over his head for the qualifying run.

"I think LeMans was every bit as taxing as Indy, physically for sure, because it really wears you out," said Andretti, the 1978 Formula One champ. His last Indy-car win came in 1993 at Phoenix when he was 53.

"I know I'm kinda old but when I was sitting in that seat today I'm in my element," he said. "I've been out of it for a long time, but I feel like it's where I belong."

Asked about his father's physical condition, Michael said: "His eyesight is fine. I mean, he probably can't see the gauges but he can see far away.

"We'll wait and see how he does, but I think he'll be fine. Right now he's like a little kid."

The oldest driver to qualify at Indy is A.J. Foyt, who was 57 in his 1992 finale.

"Yeah, dad and I predict that A.J. will be in a car by Thursday," Michael Andretti said, laughing. "I'm afraid poor Anthony (Foyt IV) will be out of his ride."

It's a role reversal that amazes John Andretti, a full-time NASCAR driver who is hoping to assume Franchitti's Indy ride. Robby Gordon also is a strong possibility to replace Franchitti, who suffered a broken back in a motorcycle accident and will be out until July.

"Nothing my uncle does surprises me, but to think that he's going to be driving for Michael is pretty neat," he said. "I'd love to join them because it's Michael's last race and he's got a great team. Heck, I'd even drive for nothing."

Michael Andretti already has announced that the Indy 500 will be his final race before focusing solely on ownership.

For the immediate future, the driver who has led 398 laps at Indy without taking the checkered flag is going to help the man who got him started in go-karts.

"It's pretty weird," Michael Andretti said. "I wonder if anybody's old man has ever driven for their kid?"

ESPN's Marlo Klain contributed to this story.