Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tom Anderson, the day before the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Former Andretti Autosport senior vice president of racing operations Tom Anderson is an accomplished racing professional, and a phenomenally candid quote. That made him a go-to source for me, not only to get smarter, but make better stories.
On Monday, AA confirmed he was no longer with the team and Yahoo quoted IndyCar president of competition Brian Barnhart as saying "We did get an email from Tom Anderson saying he had been let go, that he appreciated his time at Andretti Autosport and that he is looking at every avenue to get back into IndyCars."
Anderson was managing director of Ganassi Racing teams that won consecutive CART titles from 1996-1999, and always seemed confident of asserting himself, which seemed dangerous professionally when running, in essence, another family's business.
So I asked him about it the weekend of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Q: How can you sit in meetings in a room full of Andrettis deeply invested in this operation and assert your opinions?
A: I think that ... my age. I’m older than everybody except Mario. I tend to listen to Mario a little more than I do Michael. But, Michael and I have a funny relationship because I told him, “You know if you hire me you’re not hiring a ‘yes’ man. Because I’m going to tell you what I think. You’re going to do what you want to do, but I’m going to tell you what you’re going to get if you do what you do. And if you don’t want that, don’t hire me.” We’ve gone after each other a couple of times, but it always gets defused because we get to laughing or something like that. Probably (I'm) the right guy for this job because I spent 11 years with Chip Ganassi. My feelings can get hurt every once in a whole but I have a pretty thick skin.

Q: What is your relationship with Michael Andretti?
A: I was Michael’s buffer with Chip, so that’s how we got our relationship and things worked well together, so we have a good time. We get a little hot at each other once in a while but I understand the golden rule and I said if you want to apply the golden rule, OK, it’s your team, but I’m telling, if you do, you’re going the wrong direction.

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