Carroll gets IndyCar shot with Andretti Autosport
Michael Andretti stood atop the pit box in the very last stall
at Watkins Glen International, glanced at the lap times on the
computer above him, then looked down and gave Adam Carroll a
thumbs-up as the driver skidded to a halt.
“I was just trying to get up to speed,” Carroll said as he
climbed from the cockpit of the orange-and-black No. 27 he was
piloting for Andretti Autosport. “The circuit’s very, very
challenging, so that’s one part that makes it difficult, learning
the limits of the car and knowing how hard you can push. It’s hard
to just get back into it, get back up to speed.”
Apparently, it wasn’t that difficult for the 27-year-old from
Portadown, Northern Ireland, who signed to drive a fifth car for
Andretti Autosport on a limited schedule when Boost Mobile came
aboard as sponsor.
After getting behind the wheel of an IndyCar for the first time
just a week ago, Carroll qualified an impressive 10th at WGI, ahead
of teammates Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay, and
trailing only by Marco Andretti’s eighth-place run.
“That’s the happiest I’ve ever been qualifying 10th,” Carroll
And he hadn’t raced in 14 months.
“An awesome job,” Michael Andretti said. “Surprising? No,
because I know he’s a really good, world-class driver. Just give
him some time. He’s doing everything that we thought he would
Michael Andretti is a busy man. He’s co-owner of the only
four-car team in the IndyCar Series, is promoting two series races
this season, and like all owners is always scouring the road for
He also has his 23-year-old son Marco driving for him and a
father who thinks he knows best. Mario Andretti, the 1978 former
world champion and 1969 Indy winner, would like to see grandson
Marco get a Formula One ride, and that proved a stroke of good luck
When Marco began using the A1 Grand Prix circuit to hone his
skills on road courses, Michael Andretti headed the U.S. entry.
A1GP, which went into liquidation after the 2008-09 season, was a
single-make, international open-wheel series where drivers solely
represented their nations. Carroll captured the final championship
for Ireland with two dominant victories at Brands Hatch, England,
the last weekend of that season.
“Just all year he was solid,” Michael Andretti said. “It was
the first time I really watched him and he was the class of the
field almost every weekend. That’s what caught my eye.”
While England has produced F1 champions such as Graham Hill and
John Surtees, and Scotland has former greats Jim Clark and Jackie
Stewart and current two-time IndyCar Series champion Dario
Franchitti, Ireland’s star open-wheel driver of the past two
decades was Eddie Irvine, who won four races in 1999 and finished
second in the standings.
Unlike Irvine, who earned a fortune in real estate before he
made it to F1, Carroll has bounced around in his career because of
a lack of sponsorship.
In 2003, he drove for three different teams and also took part
in the final event of the F1 season as a partner to Nico Rosberg.
The following year he competed in Formula Three and finished as
runner-up to Nelson Piquet Jr. before joining the GP2 Series in
2005 and also signing as a test driver for BAR-Honda in F1.
Still, Carroll, who started racing go-karts at age 9, has
excelled at every level he’s raced with more than 40 career
He had to start searching again once A1GP folded and phoned
Andretti last October. He later toured the Andretti Autosport
facilities in Indianapolis, and a two-race deal was put
“It was really, really difficult trying to get in a car, but
into the proper car, not to go and do something I’ve already done
before,” said Carroll, who also will race at Mid-Ohio in
Carroll made his IndyCar Series debut Sunday in the Camping
World Grand Prix at Watkins Glen and ran as high as ninth.
“He did a great job. He’s gone fast in everything in his
career,” said Hunter-Reay, who also raced A1GP. “He’s good. He
belongs in IndyCar, for sure. We’ll see where it goes with
Carroll finished Sunday’s 60-lap race around the 11-turn,
3.4-mile layout in 16th. That was one place behind former F1 driver
Takuma Sato of Japan, the top finisher among the six rookies in the
“Well, that was pretty eventful,” Carroll said. “Because the
race was so long, sometimes I found that I struggled with the
balance. In the middle, the car felt really good, and I was able to
run with a lot of the guys up front. I struggled after that last
Michael Andretti has operated with five teams before and, after
having just secured funding for Hunter-Reay for the remainder of
the season, said a fifth car with Carroll in the seat was possible
for next year.
“We’re working on it. I think we’re capable of it. We’ve done
it many, many times,” Michael Andretti said. “… Our utopia
would be to have five cars in the mix. It probably won’t work out
that way, but we’ll see.”
Carroll is cautiously optimistic.
“Next year, even a half season I’d be absolutely delighted,”
he said. “The main thing is that I got the experience, got more
time in the car and got a pretty good start. We’ll go back, see
where I can improve, and come back stronger at Mid-Ohio.”